Asch, Sholem

Asch, Sholem
born Nov. 1, 1880, Kutno, Pol., Russian Empire
died July 10, 1957, London, Eng.

Polish-born U.S. novelist and playwright.

Much of his writing concerns the experience of Jews in eastern European villages or as immigrants in the U.S. (to which he himself immigrated in 1914). It includes the play The God of Vengeance (1907) and the novels Mottke the Thief (1916), Uncle Moses (1918), Judge Not (1926), and Chaim Lederer's Return (1927). In later, more controversial works, he explored the common heritage of Judaism and Christianity. His career was outstanding for both output and impact, and he is one of the best-known writers in modern Yiddish literature.

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▪ American writer
Sholem also spelled  Shalom  or  Sholom , Yiddish  Sholem Ash 
born Nov. 1, 1880, Kutno, Pol., Russian Empire
died July 10, 1957, London, Eng.
 Polish-born American novelist and playwright, the most controversial and one of the most widely known writers in modern Yiddish literature.

      One of the 10 surviving children of a poor family, Asch was educated at Kutno's Hebrew school. In 1899 he went to Warsaw, and in 1900 he published his highly praised first story—written, as was a cycle that followed, in Hebrew. On the advice of the Yiddish writer I.L. Peretz (Peretz, I.L.), he subsequently decided to write only in Yiddish, and with Dos Shtetl (1905; The Little Town, 1907) he began a career outstanding for both output and impact. His tales, novels, and plays filled 29 volumes in a collected Yiddish edition published in 1929–38. By their vitality and vigorous naturalism, his works attracted sizable reading publics in Europe and the United States and were soon widely translated. Unlike his great Yiddish predecessors, Asch was fortunate in having inspired translators—among them Edwin and Willa Muir and Maurice Samuel—through whom his work could enter the literary mainstream.

      Asch's work falls into three periods. In his first, he described the tragicomedy of life in the small eastern European Jewish towns torn between devotion to traditional Jewishness and the urge toward emancipation. To this period belong two novels—Kidesh hashem (1920; “The Sanctification of the Name”), a historical novel about the massacres instigated by the Cossack leader Bohdan Khmelnytsky (Khmelnytsky, Bohdan) in 1648, and Motke ganef (1916; Mottke, the Thief)—and the play Got fun nekome (1907; The God of Vengeance), about a Jewish brothel owner whose daughter has a lesbian relationship with one of her father's prostitutes. The play was produced in Berlin by Max Reinhardt in 1910 but banned elsewhere. Asch visited the United States in 1910, returned there in 1914, and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1920. To this period belong Onkl Mozes (1918; Uncle Moses), Khayim Lederers tsurikkumen (1927; Chaim Lederer's Return), and Toyt urteyl (1926; “Death Sentence”; Eng. trans. Judge Not—). These novels describe the cultural and economic conflicts experienced by eastern European Jewish immigrants in America.

      Throughout his career Asch spent much time in Europe and made long visits to Palestine. In his last, most controversial period he attempted to unite Judaism and Christianity through emphasis upon their historical and theologico-ethical connections: Der man fun Netseres (1943; The Nazarene), a reconstruction of Christ's life as expressive of essential Judaism; The Apostle (1943), a study of St. Paul; Mary (1949), the mother of Jesus seen as the Jewish “handmaid of the Lord”; and The Prophet (1955), on the Second (Deutero-) Isaiah, whose message of comfort and hope replaces the earlier prophecies of doom. In the presentation of this unknown prophet, conjectures based on archaeology and theology are blended by Asch's depth of psychological insight.

      But these last years, devoted to asserting a belief formulated when Asch visited Palestine in 1906—that Christianity is essentially a Jewish phenomenon, “one culture and civilization”—were tragic years. A number of his fellow Jews criticized him as an apostate for his fictional presentations of New Testament personages.

Additional Reading
Herman Lieberman, The Christianity of Sholem Asch: An Appraisal from the Jewish Viewpoint, trans. from Yiddish (1953); Ben Siegel, The Controversial Sholem Asch: An Introduction to His Fiction (1976); Nanette Stahl (ed.), Sholem Asch Reconsidered (2004).

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • ASCH, SHOLEM — (1880–1957), Yiddish novelist and dramatist. Born in Kutno, Poland, to parents from scholarly Orthodox families, he was educated in traditional Jewish schools until the age of 17. He began to learn German with the aid of Moses Mendelssohn s… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Asch,Sholem — Asch (ăsh), Sholem or Shalom 1880 1957. Polish born American Yiddish writer who sought to reconcile Judaism and Christianity in his controversial novels, such as The Nazarene (1939). * * * …   Universalium

  • Asch, Sholem — (1880–1957)    Yiddish novelist. Born in Kutno, Poland, Asch was the first Yiddish writer of international reputation. In achieving this he liberated Yiddish literature from its narrow confines and made it part of general Western culture.    The… …   Who’s Who in Jewish History after the period of the Old Testament

  • Asch, Sholem — (1880 1957)    Polish Yiddish author. He lived in the US, France and Israel. In short stories, novels and plays he depicted shtetl life in eastern Europe, as well as the American Jewish experience. His later novels deal with the Jewish Christian… …   Dictionary of Jewish Biography

  • Asch, Sholem — (1 nov. 1880, Kutno, Polonia, Imperio ruso–10 jul. 1957, Londres, Inglaterra). Novelista y dramaturgo estadounidense nacido en Polonia. La mayoría de sus escritos tratan sobre la experiencia de los judíos en los pueblos de la Europa oriental o… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Asch, Sholem —  (1880–1957) Polish born American novelist …   Bryson’s dictionary for writers and editors

  • Sholem Asch — (en yiddish שלום אש) ou Shalom Asch (1880 1957) est un écrivain et journaliste yiddish, né en Pologne dans une famille juive traditionnelle. Il s’affranchit de la tradition et voyage dans le monde, devenant l’un des plus grands écrivains yiddish …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Sholem Asch — born Szulim Asz ( yi. שלום אש), also written Shalom Asch(1 November, 1880, Kutno July 10, 1957, London) was a Polish born American novelist, dramatist, and essayist in the Yiddish language.Asch was born in Kutno, Poland, of Jewish heritage. He… …   Wikipedia

  • Sholem — (as used in expressions) Asch Sholem Sholem Aleichem Sholem Yakov Rabinowitz Sholem Yankev Abramovitsh * * * …   Universalium

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