Isaac Leib Peretz
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Peretz, Isaac Leib
Born May 18 (30), 1851, in Zamost’e, now Zamość, in Lublin Province, Poland; died Mar. 21 (Apr. 3), 1915, in Warsaw. Yiddish writer.
The son of a merchant, Peretz was self-educated. His first works were published in Hebrew in 1875; beginning in 1888 he wrote in Yiddish. In the 1890’s he founded the periodical The Jewish Library and edited the collection Literature and Life (1894); these publications played an important role in the development of Jewish social thought.
Peretz was a bold innovator in his treatment of different genres. His talent was best displayed in short stories dealing with sharp conflicts. In the 1890’s, Peretz attacked vestiges of medievalism in the Jewish community. He depicted the tragic victims of religious asceticism in the stories “The Cabalists” and “In the Mail Wagon.”
Late in the 1880’s, Peretz still had faith in bourgeois culture. However, he later published articles unmasking bourgeois “freedoms.” His story “Silent Bontsia” (1894) protested against man’s age-old oppression; the short story “The Love of a Weaver” (1897) revealed sympathy for the socialist movement. Early in the 1900’s, Peretz’ works were predominantly romantic; examples are Hasidic Tales (1900) and Folktales (1904–09). Peretz contrasted the calculating nature of the bourgeois to the spiritual wealth of characters created by popular imagination. His works strongly influenced the development of modern Yiddish literature.
WORKSAle Verk, vols. 1–18. New York-Vilnius, 1915–16.
Oisgevelte Verk, vols. 1–2. [Introductory article by R. Rubina.] Moscow, 1941.
In Russian translation:
Sobr. soch., vols. 1–4. Moscow, 1911–14.
Rasskazy i skazki. [Foreword by Sh. Epshtein.] Moscow, 1941.
Izbrannoe. [Foreword by R. Rubina.] Moscow, 1962.