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The Worlds of S. An-sky

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The Worlds of S. An-sky

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The Worlds of S. An-sky
A Russian Jewish Intellectual at the Turn of the Century
By Gabriella Safran and Steven J. Zipperstein
Stanford University Press: 2006
ISBN: 0-8047-5344-X.

Reviewed by Anna Dogole - March 16, 2007

Perhaps best known as the author of the play, The Dybbuk, Shloyme Zanvl Rappoport, a.k.a. An-sky, was a writer and scholar of Jewish folklore and ethnography. Born in Belarus, An-sky wrote in both Yiddish and Russian, and in addition to The Dybbuk, which was originally titled Between Two Worlds (Tsvishn tsvey veltn), he also wrote such well received books as The Destruction of Galicia (Khurbn Galitsye) part of a three volume work on the devastation of European Jewry in Poland, Galicia, and Bukovina during World War I, a humorous novella called Mendl the Turk and From the Source of Eternity (Fun eybikn kval) a collection of tales. He also wrote a number of songs, including Di Shvue, which became the anthem of the Jewish Socialist Labor Bund.

In The Worlds of S. An-sky: A Russian Jewish Intellectual at the Turn of the Century, Gabriella Safran and Steven J. Zipperstein have gathered together a collection of sixteen essays on An-sky, written by scholars in a diverse range of fields including history, literature, anthropology, Slavic studies, and Jewish studies. These essays serve to provide an interdisciplinary overview of An-sky's literary and ethnographic endeavors.

A sampling of the essays to be found in this collection include: In addition to the essays, this text also includes a detailed timeline of An-sky's life, and two versions of the text of The Dybbuk. This text includes ample endnotes and it is well illustrated with archival photographs. Also included is a compact disc (CD) containing recordings of Jewish songs that were culled from An-sky's own field recordings from 1912-14, his writings, as well as songs that he heard. This CD, entitled The Upward Flight is accompanied by a pamphlet that includes an essay on The Musical World of S. An-sky and another on Jewish Folksongs. Words for the songs contained on this CD are also included, in transliteration, Yiddish or Russian, and in English translation.

The Worlds of S. An-sky offers readers an unprecedented glimpse into the life and works of An-sky. Not only does this work serve as an in-depth biography of this monumental literary figure, but it also does double duty as a literary overview of his writings. This text will prove invaluable to scholars, both as a reference guide on An-sky as a historic and literary text on a remarkable man and the period in which he lived. General readers with an interest in Russian or Jewish history, culture, and literature will find that this text is readily accessible and enthralling to read.

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