S. Ansky's famous play, The Dybbuk--a haunting tale about ill-fated love, possession, and exorcism in a small Jewish town in Eastern Europe--was originally called "Between Two Worlds," which is also an apt description of the life of this unusual writer. Solomon Rappoport-Ansky (1863-1920) began his career among radical Russian populists and Socialist-Revolutionaries, and later returned to the world of Yiddish-speaking Jews through a study of its folklore. This volume provides an incomparable portrait of an assimilated Jewish artist who finds his way home through the folk culture of the Jewish people. This anthology, the third volume in Schocken's Library of Yiddish Classics, presents a broad selection of Ansky's work, including a new translation of The Dybbuk (which was made into the last great Yiddish film produced in Poland in 1937), short stories, and autobiographical sketches. Just prior to World War I, Ansky envisioned and led the Jewish Ethnographic Expedition to Poland and the Ukraine to study the folklore he later used as themes in his modernist fiction and drama. During the war itself, he returned to Poland as a relief worker delivering donated funds to besieged Jewish communities in the occupied war zone. "The Destruction of Galicia," included in this volume, contains portions from his diaries in which he recorded his piercing observations of traditional Jewish life in Eastern Europe on the eve of its dissolution.
An altogether excellent anthology, this volume offers a superior introduction to the brillant, brooding works of a turn-of-the-century master of Yiddish literature. (Sept.)