Asch, Sholem

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Asch, Sholem or Shalom

(shō`ləm ăsh, shä`ləm), 1880–1957, Jewish novelist and playwright, b. Poland. He first came to the United States in 1909, was naturalized in 1920, and lived in various parts of Europe and the United States. He settled in Israel in 1956. One of the most widely known Yiddish writers, he won his first success with the play The God of Vengeance, produced by Max Reinhardt in Berlin in 1910 and given in many languages and places since then. Among his works available in English translations are the novels Mottke the Thief (1917), Uncle Moses (1920), Three Cities (1933), The War Goes On (1935), The Nazarene (1939), The Apostle (1943), One Destiny (1945), East River (1946), Mary (1949), Salvation (1951), Moses (1951), A Passage in the Night (1953), and The Prophet (1955). His two collections of short stories and novelettes are Children of Abraham (1942) and Tales of My People (1948). Asch's writings often depict Jewish life in Europe and in the United States, and later works reflect the common spiritual heritage of Jews and Christians. Several of his plays were very successful in the Yiddish theater in New York City.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Asch, Sholem


Born Jan. 1, 1880, in Kutno, Poland; died July 10, 1957, in London. Jewish writer. Born into a religious family. First published in 1900.

In his novellas The Little Town (1905) and Shloyme the Rich Man (1909) Asch idealized the patriarchal and religious foundations of old-fashioned Jewish life. The play The God of Vengeance (1907), which was directed against prostitution, was performed in the theaters of Russia and on the stages of Western Europe and America. In 1909, Asch went to the USA, where he wrote socially pertinent novels drawn from the lives of Jewish workers: Mottke the Thief (1917), Uncle Moses (1917), The Mother, The Electric Chair, Chaim Lederer’s Return, and others. Asch revived ancient and medieval Jewish legends in such novels as In Praise of God (1920), The Castilian Sorceress (1921), The Psalm-singer (1937), and The Man From Nazareth (1943). The novels Mary (1949) and Moses (1951) are based on biblical themes.


Shriften, vols. 1–8. Warsaw, 1908–1912.
Gezamelte shriften, vols. 1–18. Warsaw, 1924–25.
Kol Keitvn Sholom Ash. Odessa, 1913.
In Russian translation:
Sobr. soch., vols. 1–3. Moscow-Leningrad, 1929–30.
Liudi i bogi: Izbr. proizv. (Introductory article and notes by M. Belen’kii.) Moscow, 1966.


Litvakov, M. Af tsvei frontn. Moscow-Kharkov, 1931.
Reisen, Z. Leksikonfun der iidisher literatur prese un filologie, 2nd ed., vol. 1. Vilnius, 1926.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Asch, Sholem (or Shalom)

(1880–1957) writer, playwright; born in Kutno, Poland. He studied at the Hebrew school in his village, then moved to Warsaw, Poland (1899), where he wrote stories, plays, poems, and novels in Hebrew and Yiddish. He emigrated to New York City (1909), and began as a writer for Yiddish newspapers there. His play, The God of Vengeance, enjoyed considerable success in a production in Berlin, Germany (1910) and several other of his plays would be produced in the Yiddish theater in New York. He continued his prolific career as a writer, occasionally in English, but mostly in Yiddish, and although he became a U.S. citizen in 1920 and long maintained a home in Florida, he often lived abroad. Most of his works dealt with Jewish subjects, as in Mottke the Thief (1917) and Three Cities (1933). His most famous books (to English readers) formed a trilogy—The Nazarene (1939), The Apostle (1943), and Mary (1949)—in which he attempted to portray Jesus, Paul, and Mary in a way that bridged Christianity and Judaism, but he so antagonized some American Jews that he moved to Israel in 1956.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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