Sholem Asch

Polish-Jewish novelist, dramatist, and essayist in the Yiddish language (1880-1957)

Sholem Asch (1 November 188010 July 1957), was a Polish-born American Jewish novelist, dramatist, and essayist in the Yiddish language.

Sholem Asch, 1940

Quotes edit

  • Not the power to remember, but its very opposite, the power to forget, is a necessary condition for our existence.
    • The Nazarene, 1939, p. 3.
  • Suffering, my son, is the fount of love. Suffering is the grace, the great grace, which our Father in heaven pours down upon us. For suffering gives men submissive hearts. He that does not suffer thinks that he stands upon a mighty rock which he himself has raised. He does not see his brother; he sees only himself. He believes in no one; he believes only in his own strength. His heart becomes a swamp which swarms with reptiles: pride, obstinacy, and self-love. And when his footstool is rolled away from under him, he sinks, together with all the reptiles, into the depths of hell. But he to whom God has granted suffering shall find his pains like ropes which bind him to his Father in heaven. His heart is awake to feel the pains of his brother in need. He sends afflictions upon you and makes you small on earth that you may be great in heaven.
    • The Nazarene, 1939, p. 512.

Quotes about Sholem Asch edit

  • In the terrible revolutionary upheaval in the Jewish towns of Russia at the beginning of this century, when the entire Jewish youth was drawn into the vortex and confusion of strife, Asch remained loyal to his art. Not that he was indifferent to the momentous events, not that those terrible days failed to stir his soul and heat his blood. Nay, he saw all, he absorbed and responded. But this he did not as a worker, not as a participant in the struggle, not as a zealot, or a believer or soldier; but as the artist, as the dreamer, philosopher and interpreter and painter of emotions and impressions.

    This is also true of his attitude to the agitation over the Jewish problem that shook Russian Judaism in those days of storm and unrest. The questions of Zionism, nationalism, cosmopolitanism, the revival of Palestinism, the amalgamation of national and revolutionary principles, the neo-chassidism, these and many other creeds that sprang into life during those memorable days influenced Asch not as a crusader for one cause or the other, but as an interpreter of them all, as an artist purely and faithfully.
  • Sholem Asch and Isaac Bashevis Singer reflected through the prism of their personalities and unique talents the soul of the jew as a human being, and in this way they became universal writers.
    • Chava Rosenfarb "Sholem Asch and Isaac Bashevis Singer" (1992) in Confessions of a Yiddish Writer and Other Essays, translated from the Yiddish with Goldie Morgentaler
  • the great Sholem Asch never sees women as they really are, but rather as he would like them to be, that is, saintly and self-sacrificing. Her heart overflowing with love, the Yiddish literary heroine is ready to throw away her life for the man she loves and the people she loves. Asch's favourite female type is the mother. As is well-known, Asch suffered from a mother-fixation, a fixation that leads him to the apotheosis of all mother figures in the novel Mary, the third volume of his Christian trilogy. Even in earlier work - for instance, Kiddush-Hashem and "The Sorceress of Castille" - Asch describes his heroines, Dvora and Jephta, as if they were Jewish versions of the Virgin Mary. But Asch never shows us the human complexity that troubles his heroines' souls. In fact, in the course of the entire narrative of "The Sorceress of Castille," Jephta does not utter a single word.
    • Chava Rosenfarb "Feminism and Yiddish Literature: A Personal Approach" (1992) in "Confessions of a Yiddish Writer and Other Essays" edited and translated from the Yiddish by Goldie Morgentaler (2019)
  • The only famous Yiddish stories from Latin America I'm able to make people invoke are the handful of ones by the masters Sholem Aleichem, Sholem Asch, and Isaac Bashevis Singer. They are set in, or at least refer to, Argentina (and on occasion in an eternally rainy Brazil) and invariably deal with the Jewish prostitution ring-la trata de blancas.
    • Ilan Stavans Introduction to Yiddish South of the Border: An Anthology of Latin American Yiddish Writing edited by Alan Astro (2003)

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