Sunday, January 24, 2010

One more notable passing last week

The great Yiddish poet Avraham Sutzkever 1913-2010. It's worth knowing who he was. Here is the NY Times obit. The following message came from my friend, the esteemed poet, scholar and translator (of Sutzkever among others) Seymour Mayne, the Times obit has one of Seymour's translations:

"Earlier this morning I learned belatedly that our last great Yiddish poet had passed away Wednesday and his funeral was held a few hours ago in Tel Aviv. I had the privilege to spend much time with him, especially in 1979 and 1980 when I was translating a collection of his Holocaust poetry, Burnt Pearls, while we were living in Jerusalem. His death marks not only the passing of an era but also the end of a great literary language, Yiddish, which will not live again as it did in its fertile heyday in the first half of the twentieth-century."

I had the honour of meeting Sutzkever a few times at the Jewish Public Library back in 1989-90. I was too young and uninformed to understand what all the fuss was about when he arrived from Israel, but there I was playing 'host' to the greatest living Yiddish poet. I also spent time with one of his translators the US poet Ruth Whitman when we invited her to Montreal to read from her translations and to celebrate the publication of Sutzkever's classic "The Fiddle Rose" which also has illustrations by the poet's dear friend Marc Chagall.

No comments: