Document Type

Book Review

Publication Title

H-Net Humanities and Social Sciences



"In her introduction to Portraits in Literature: The Jews of Poland, Hava Bromberg Ben-Zvi writes that “Jewish literature and culture did not perish from the face of the earth. Inherited and transformed by a new generation of writers, it was reborn, changed and enriched, finding new configurations, images and expressions” (p. xxxv). This sense of homage to a literature and culture of Polish Jews permeates the entire anthology, beginning with Bromberg Ben-Zvi’s essay on the historical context of Jewish life in Poland and ending with selections from writers like Anna Cwiakowska, who continues to write and publish in Polish in Israel. Hailing the cultural and literary continuity as the central idea of her collection, Bromberg Ben-Zvi’s anthology offers a diverse cross-section of Polish Jewish literature, including memoirs, fiction, and poetry. While the selections appear in English, they originate in a multilingual Polish Jewish milieu and include authors who wrote in Yiddish and English, like Abraham Cahan, and Polish-language writers like Janusz Korczak, as well as those like poet Itzhak Katzenelson, who wrote in Hebrew and switched to Yiddish in response to the German invasion of Poland. Bromberg Ben-Zvi’s editorial selections are thus an excellent representation of what literary scholars and historians have acknowledged as modern Jewish multilingualism. Aside from its linguistic diversity, the volume brings together a remarkable variety of authors and genres, reminding us of the stunning breadth and quality of Polish Jewish literary output."

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