Tuwim — translations into Yiddish

JHI’s Library has a rich collection of books in Yiddish and Hebrew. Apart from the originals, there are also translations — testimonies of mutual influences and interests of neighbouring cultures.

Wide  mgl4018 2

Tuwim, as one of the most popular and respected poets of the interwar period; he aroused interest not only among literary critics but also translators. Among pre-war poets translating Tuwim’s works into Yiddish we can find Szmuel Lejb Sznajderman, Ber Horowic, Lejb Olicki, Josef Fiszman, Lejb Rozenblat, Szymszon Kahan or Mendl Neugroeschl (Najgreszl). The case of the latter is probably the most interesting one.

Mendel Neugroeschel (1903–1965), one of the most eminent translators of Polish literature into Yiddish did not live in Poland, but in... Vienna (till 1938 when he was interned in Dachau and Buchenwald, and then, still before the war, he emigrated through Brazil to the United States). However, if we start thinking about unique, multicultural character of Galicia, it will not be such a surprise to us. It is worth mentioning that Neugroeschel, being a poet himself, published his first writings in Polish, under a pseudonym and only later did he decide to change his language into Yiddish. In Galician circles he was also known as a promoter of the Polish culture. It was him that Bruno Schulz asked for a favour writing: „I would be happy if you decided that it was worth going to the trouble to translate anything from it, or maybe the whole book”. Finally, the plan was not carried out and Schulz was translated into Yiddish not earlier than in 2012.

Thanks to translations of Neugroeschl, Tuwim became known internationally very quickly and his writings translated into Yiddish could be found in Warsaw, Lviv, New York and Sighet (Romania). The translator compiled single texts into a publication „Pojlisze liriker (1936)” which came out in Vienna by A.B Cerata publishing. The volume consisted of 23 texts and included translations of Tuwim’s works as well as translated poems of other artists: Zofia Nałkowska, Kazimierz Wierzyński, Jerzy Jankowski and Józef Wittlin. They were, as the translator explained briefly in the afterword, a small part of translations which originally were supposed to be accompanied by a series of critical literary essays. Unfortunately, the crisis in the book market did not create favourable conditions for niche projects and the publisher agreed to publish only a small volume. In consisted of nine texts by Tuwim: Two winds, A Joyful Song About Home, How a Poem is Created, Funeral, The Christ of the Town, The Old People, I Had a Sunny Day, The Dancing Socrates and, still controversial today, poem the Jews. Neugroeschl’s edition was a bibliophile, limited edition, not targeting casual readers. 

It is slightly different with a post-war volume „Tuwim far kinder” (1954) compiled by a poet and translator, Lejb Olicki, targeted at students of Jewish schools in Poland and abroad. The volume, published in 5500 copies, consisted of 31 poems, such as : The Locomotive, Murzynek Bambo, Zosia-Samosia, Glasses, Bird’s radio, Słoń trąbalski and others. Among them were aslo two poems clearly of ideological content and testimony of the time when the book was published.

Even though Olicki’s translations, as it may seem, often could not rival the originals, and in some cases (The Locomotive) today we have much better translations, in some places the artistry of the poet deserves recognition. Transferring Tuwim’s characters to the Yiddish language, Olicki demonstrated great creativity. And so Yiddish Zosia-Samosia is Szejndl-Alejndl, Dyzio Marzyciel — Dowidl der Trojmer, Fajwisz Trombeser is none other than Tomasz Trąbalski, and Tralejbuś Tralafinkl – Tralisław Tralaliński. Therefore let’s learn the family of the latter:

מיט זײַן ווײַבל טראַלאַשמײַבל,

מיט זײַן מיידל טראַלאַשמיידל,

מיט זײַן ייִנגל טראַלאַשמינגל,

מיט זײַן הינטל טראַלאַשמינטל.

For those not reading in Yiddish, a transcription

Mit zajn wajbl – Tralaszmajbl

Mit zajn mejdl – Tralaszmejdl,

Mit zajn jingl – Tralaszmingl,

Mit zajn hintl – Tralaszmintl.

Jego żona [his wife]– Tralalona,

Jego córka [his daughter]– Tralalurka,

Jego piesek [his dog]– Tralalesek.

Jego synek [his son]– Tralalinek,

Bibliography: Magdalena Ruta, Słoń Trombeser, czyli słów kilka o przekładach Tuwima dla dzieci i o recepcji jego twórczości w kulturze jidysz powojennej Polski (1946–1968) [ Słoń Trombeser — a few words about translations of Tuwim for children and perception of his works in Yiddish culture of post-war Poland (1946–1968)], „Midrasz“ 2013, no 5.

This website uses cookies to collect statistical data. If you do not accept it, please disable cookies in your web browser. I understand