Sholom Asch is probably the most translated writer of Yiddish
literature in history. Though it seems he is most often cited as a "famous novelist, the author of The Nazerene", it is his play Got Fun Nekoma
, that is, God of Vengeance
, that remains most vital to us today. Its portrayal of a Jewish whoremonger
and, worse still, an openly lesbian
relationship, still kicks up a little fuss in some quarters when it is staged today (as it often is, actually). One can imagine, then, the uproar that greeted its original appearance in 1907! The first performance in English, on Broadway
in 1923, ended that first night, with the entire cast arrested and fined $200. Got Fun
? Yeah, and I got a night in jail, too.
Asch was no stranger to controversy, then. Along with elements such as the above-mentioned, his interest in interweaving Christian themes and characters with Jewish could also make some uneasy. Though he would no doubt happily stand by anything in his plays or novels, one thing that did cause him deep regret was his opposition in the 1930s to Ze'ev Jabotinsky’s calls for the Jewish diaspora in Europe to move with haste to Israel, calls he thought alarmist and hysterical at the time.
Born in Poland in 1880 and dying in London in 1957, he lived most of his life in America, and is usually considered an American writer. He fathered Moe Asch, the founder of Folkways Records. Sholem Asch was extremely prolific, writing novels, plays and also short stories.
Some of his work:
Der Zindiker (The Sinner).
Dos Haylike Maydl (The Holy Girl)
Der Toiter Mentsh (The Dead Man)
Reverend Doctor Silver
Di Kishefmakherin fun Castille (The Sorceress from Castille)
Kidush Hashem (Sanctity of The Name)
mostly from www.yap.cat.nyu.edu/Hires/Biography.asp?ID=109