Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Thursday, December 6, 2018

A Lynching - A Short Story by Joseph Opatoshu - 1922 - translation by Jessica Kirzane

My Prior Post on Joseph Opatoshu

You can read “A Lynching” here

 “A Lynching”- A Short Story by Joseph Opatoshu - 1922 - translation by Jessica   Kirzane from Yiddish, 2018

Earlier this year i read a very valuable book that detailed important connections between Russian persecution of Jewish residents in 1903  and the founding of the NAACP.  This is directly related to today’s story of the horrible murder of an African American man by a mob of white southerns, done in retribution for the man’s admitted rape of a young girl.  Here is the relevent  data from my 
post of May 18, 2018.

Pogram Kishinev and the Tilt of History by Seven Zapperstein is a wonderful book.  It tells a detailed story about a pogram that took place in Tsarist Russia in April 1903 and included the murder of 49 Jews, the rape of many Jewish women and girls, the wounding of about 600 and the robbing and destruction of over 1000 Jewish owned homes and businesses.  Zapperstein goes into a lot of detail about what happened during those three terrible days in 1903.  People from neighboring areas actually brought in wagons to carry away stolen items.  

News of the pogram was widely written about in the American and English press.  The Hearst newspaper powerhouse gave very heavy coverage of the pogram.  Zapperstein explains how this journalism lead to the creation of The NAACP largely by New York City based Jews who saw in the wide spread lynching of Black men in the American south a horror much like the Kishinev Pogram.  Zapperstein details how to this very day the pogram caused most American Jews to be liberals.

Joseph Opatoshu in “ A Lynching” begins with a description of a Family of African Americans.  As Jessica Kirzane says in her very informative introduction  Opoatlshu portrays the African American family in very patronizing terms. As The story opens the local sherriff and three deputies have come to take a young man into custody.  He is charged with raping a White girl barely in her teens.  His mother protests that her son would never do such a thing.  He has already taken off for the woods.  In fact he did rape the girl, he says because the father molested his young sister as he admits when captured.  The sherriff tells the mob, with a rope ready to lynch him, that they must let the legal system handle matter.   

But the sherriff is no match for The angry mob, armed with shotguns and hunting rifles.  The do not hang him, they chain him up, douse him with gasoline  and set him on fire.  Opatoshu gives us a very vivid description of the burning.  As the story ends, white children look for small bones or teeth for momentos. 

OPATOSHU, JOSEPH (originally Opatovsky; 1886–1954), Yiddish novelist and short-story writer. Born near Mlave (Poland), Opatoshu immigrated to the U.S. in 1907, where he studied engineering at Cooper Union at night, while supporting himself by working in a shoe factory, selling newspapers, and teaching in Hebrew schools. In 1914 he graduated as a civil engineer, but soon found literature a more congenial profession. From 1910 he contributed stories to periodicals and anthologies, and in 1914 edited an anthology of his own, Di Naye Heym ("The New Home"), which included his story of American Jewish life, "Fun Nyu Yorker Geto." 

When the New York daily Der Tog was founded (1914), he joined its staff and for 40 years contributed stories, sketches, and serials, most of which were later reprinted in book form.

Opatoshu's early work was naturalistic, depicting scenes from contemporary life. Thus his A Roman fun a Ferd Ganev ("A Novel about a Horse Thief," 1912), his first novel to attract wide attention, was based on his boyhood acquaintance with an unusual Jewish thief who made a living by smuggling horses across the border from Poland to Germany and who was killed while defending fellow Jews against their hostile neighbors. Opatoshu expressed his reaction to romanticism by creating thieves, smugglers, and drunkards who were a distinct contrast to the figures in the writings of Sholem *Aleichem or Y.L. Peretz. Opatoshu was one of the first Yiddish writers to depict American Jewish experience in his works. published in 1933, Opatoshu portrays the vanished world of 16th-century Jewish patricians and Yiddish minstrels in a stylized language that utilizes older stages of Yiddish. In his final historical epic, Der Letster Oyfshtand (2 vols. 1948–52; The Last Revolt, 1952), Opatoshu attempted an imaginative reconstruction of daily life in 2nd-century Judea, when the last desperate revolt of the Jews against Roman rule flared up and was crushed.


1 comment:

Buried In Print said...

This sounds difficult and important. The historical reading you've done must have brought tremendous satisfaction as you watch all the pieces come together to a deeper understanding.