Translations of selected poems by the Yiddish writer, covering the entire breadth of his career. Yiddish writer Avrom Sutzkever (1913–2010) was described by the New York Times as “the greatest poet of the Holocaust.” Born in present-day Belarus, Sutzkever spent his childhood as a war refugee in Siberia, returned to Poland to participate in the interwar flourishing of Yiddish culture, was confined to the Vilna ghetto during the Nazi occupation, escaped to join the Jewish partisans, and settled in the new state of Israel after the war. Personal and political, mystical and national, his body of work, including more than two dozen volumes of poetry, several of stories, and a memoir, demonstrated the ways in which Yiddish creativity simultaneously balanced the imperatives of mourning and revival after the Holocaust. In The Full Pomegranate, Richard J. Fein selects and translates some of Sutzkever’s best poems covering the full breadth of his career. Fein’s translations appear alongside the original Yiddish, while an introduction by Justin Cammy situates Sutzkever in both historical and literary context.
“Richard Fein is among the best translators of Yiddish poetry into English—the best now, and, for that matter, among the best ever. He has a deep, inward sense of Yiddish poems, both intuitive and analytic, and a patient tenacity in burrowing into them. He also has what is still rarer, a beautifully fine ear for diction and rhythm; the translations are alive on the page, every word is necessary, every cadence has its music.
“The poems of Avrom Sutzkever were a challenge to him; he writes, candidly, ‘they wanted me to find new powers in my English.’ There is a special, precious audacity in accepting such a challenge, and Fein has indeed found the new powers the poems demanded.” — Lawrence Rosenwald, Wellesley College
PRAISE FOR THE FULL POMEGRANATE
“Avrom Sutzkever has no more loving translator than fellow poet Richard Fein. Even those who think they ‘do not understand poetry’ will be inspired by the poet who bore witness to the most dramatic points of modern Jewish experience and could transmit their power. Strength and spirit fuse in Sutzkever, wit and insight, moral confidence and grace. Our thanks to the translator and to Justin Cammy’s introduction for bringing this Jewish cultural landmark to English readers.” — Ruth R. Wisse, author of No Joke: Making Jewish Humor
“Richard Fein’s translations strive for the impossible acrobatics of Sutzkever’s writing, from the rare alchemy of his striking metaphors to a postwar longing for poetic redemption in the face of destruction. To capture just an echo of Sutzkever’s singular voice would be an achievement. This collection, simultaneously careful and daring in its choices, amplifies that echo to the maximum that the English language would allow.” — Saul Noam Zaritt, Harvard University
“In dialogue with Avrom Sutzkever, Richard Fein offers us a vibrant selection of the poet’s works in a beautiful facing-page translation. Sutzkever’s superbly inventive Yiddish imagery and wordcraft inspired Fein, the poet-translator, to dynamically engage both Yiddish and English, with remarkable and moving results.” — Ellen Kellman, Brandeis University
About the author
Richard J. Fein is Professor Emeritus of English at the State University of New York at New Paltz and the author, editor, and translator of many books, including With Everything We’ve Got: A Personal Anthology of Yiddish Poetry.
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