Songs in Dark Times: Yiddish Poetry of Struggle from Scottsboro to Palestine

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Harvard University Press
Publish Date
6.1 X 9.3 X 1.3 inches | 1.49 pounds
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About the Author
Amelia M. Glaser translates primarily from Yiddish, Ukrainian, and Russian. She is Professor of Literature at UC San Diego, where she holds the Chair in Judaic Studies. She is the author of Jews and Ukrainians in Russia's LiteraryBorderlands (Northwestern U.P., 2012) and Songs in Dark Times: Yiddish Poetry of Struggle from Scottsboro to Palestine (Harvard UP, 2020). She is the editor of Stories of Khmelnytsky: Literary Legacies of the 1648 Ukrainian Cossack Uprising (Stanford U.P., 2015) and, with Steven Lee, Comintern Aesthetics (U. Toronto Press, 2020). She is currently writing a book about contemporary Ukrainian poetry.
Songs in Dark Times arrives at just the right moment. The internationalist visions of cross-ethnic, multiracial solidarity that Glaser finds in Yiddish poetry of the 1930s are more urgent than ever in our own dark times of crisis. Her original account of the multilingual 'passwords' that allowed left-wing poets to connect Jewish experiences to those of other minority groups grows out of an acute sensitivity to the way literary language can forge powerful political affiliations.--Michael Rothberg, author of The Implicated Subject: Beyond Victims and Perpetrators
Before there was Google, there was poetry. This is a book about passwords that performed not in the technical but in the aesthetic realm: words that allowed for the crossing of the border from Jews to others who suffered. Today, when the uses and abuses of historical comparisons are so intensely debated, Glaser reminds us that thinking through analogies--translating untranslatable suffering--is inextricably bound up with empathy. Though set in the catastrophic 'long 1930s, ' Songs in Dark Times speaks uncannily to our present moment.--Marci Shore, author of Caviar and Ashes: A Warsaw Generation's Life And Death In Marxism, 1918-1968
Glaser takes us on a truly international journey: from China to riot-torn Palestine to the Jim Crow American South to war-torn Spain to Soviet Ukraine. It is a compelling journey guided by an astute literary scholar with a keen sense of historical context. Intriguing, original, and acutely intelligent, Songs in Dark Times will take its place as one of the finest analyses of Yiddish literature to have been written in several decades. It is a joy to read, and I recommend it heartily.--Joshua M. Karlip, author of The Tragedy of a Generation: The Rise and Fall of Jewish Nationalism in Eastern Europe
Songs in Dark Times impresses and delights with close readings, careful analysis, breadth of vision, and unmistakably transnational sensibility. Glaser uses the key term 'passwords' to enter a radically reconfigured space in which Yiddish writers of the interwar period used markers of Jewish identity to embrace other marginalized groups. This welcome intervention in Jewish studies and comparative literature has an added bonus: Glaser's translations of ten Yiddish poems, with work by women writers not readily available elsewhere.--Harriet Murav, author of David Bergelson's Strange New World: Untimeliness and Futurity
Glaser tells the story of too-little-known interventions in modernist Jewish and North American poetry, chronicling the ingenuity of Yiddish communist poets, who used their ethnic and social particularity as a means to join international struggles against injustice, racism, and economic inequality. Chock full of provocative poems, still simmering debates, and irresolvable contradictions, Songs in Dark Times is fascinating, informative, challenging, exuberantly archival, and necessary.--Charles Bernstein, author of Near/Miss