The World According to Itzik

Selected Poetry and Prose

Itzik Manger; Translated and edited by Leonard Wolf; With an introduction by David G. Roskies and Leonard Wolf

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In the years between 1929 and 1939, when Itzik Manger wrote most of the poetry and fiction that made him famous, his name among Yiddish readers was a household word. Called the Shelley of Yiddish, he was characterized as being “drunk with talent.” This book—the first full-length anthology of Manger’s work—displays the full range of his genius in poetry, fiction, and criticism.

The book begins with an extensive historical, biographical, and literary-critical introduction to Manger’s work. There are then excerpts from a novel, The Book of Paradise, three short stories, autobiographical essays, critical essays, and finally, Manger’s magnificent poetry—ballads, bible poems, personal lyrics, and the Megilla Songs. These works, which have the patina of myths acquired ages ago, also offer modern psychological insight and irrepressible humor. With Manger we make the leap into the Jewish twentieth century, as he recreates the past in all its layered expressiveness and interprets it with modernist sensibilities.

Leonard Wolf is a distinguished novelist and translator of Yiddish books, short stories, and poetry. He has taught courses in New York University’s School of Continuing Education since his retirement from San Francisco State University.

Musing, I’ll stand before your great desert,
And hear the camels’ ancient tread as they
Sway with trade and Torah on their humps.
I’ll hear the age-old hovering wander-song
That trembles over glowing sand and dies,
And then recalls itself and does not disappear.
I’ll not kiss your sand. No, and ten times no.
How can I kiss your sand? I am your sand.
And how, I ask you, can I kiss myself?
—An excerpt from For Years I Wallowed

"Itzik Manger was one of the handful of extraordinary Yiddish poets of the 20th century. There is a quality of hallucinatory intensity in Manger, which is very difficult to duplicate."—Harold Bloom, author of Genius: A Mosaic of 100 Exemplary Creative Minds

“Manger’s deceptively folkish style, which mixes fantasy and autobiography, Biblical plots and a fin-de-siècle East European setting, pathos and parody, angels’ wings and social protest, the lyric and dramatic, has been brilliantly rendered into English by Leonard Wolf.”—Ruth R. Wisse

"Halkin’s translations and introduction are of the high quality one has come to expect from him."—Choice

"The ’New Yiddish Library’ series . . . promises to make a valuable contribution to library collections. . . . If Roskies’ introduction is any indication of introductions to come, readers are in for something very special. Here he provides the best essay available in English on Manger. It is both scholarly and readable. The translations themselves are excellent, and the scholarly apparatus makes this a volume useful to a wide public. This reviewer cannot wait for more volumes to appear."—Choice

"Remarkable new translations. . . . These new translations give this orphaned literature what it needs and deserves: a chance for English readers to adopt it and bring it home."—Dara Horn, Forward
ISBN: 9780300218503
Publication Date: June 9, 2015
304 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
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