Cover: Songs in Dark Times: Yiddish Poetry of Struggle from Scottsboro to Palestine, from Harvard University PressCover: Songs in Dark Times in HARDCOVER

Songs in Dark Times

Yiddish Poetry of Struggle from Scottsboro to Palestine

Product Details


$42.00 • £36.95 • €38.95

ISBN 9780674248458

Publication Date: 11/24/2020


368 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

9 photos


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Rescues long-forgotten poems from communist periodicals in the United States and Soviet Union and shows how they used Jewish ‘passwords’ in behalf of a vision of multi-ethnic and racial solidarity. Challenging but accessible, poignant and provocative, Songs in Dark Times makes an invaluable contribution to Jewish studies, Yiddish literature, and transnational political discourse.—Glenn C. Altschuler, Jerusalem Post

Deeply probing… Glaser lifts up the work of Yiddish poets grappling with the issues of their day.—Eric A. Gordon, People’s World

Songs in Dark Times arrives at just the right moment. The internationalist visions of cross-ethnic, multiracial solidarity that Glaser finds in Yiddish poetry of the 1930s are more urgent than ever in our own dark times of crisis. Her original account of the multilingual ‘passwords’ that allowed left-wing poets to connect Jewish experiences to those of other minority groups grows out of an acute sensitivity to the way literary language can forge powerful political affiliations.—Michael Rothberg, author of The Implicated Subject: Beyond Victims and Perpetrators

Before there was Google, there was poetry. This is a book about passwords that performed not in the technical but in the aesthetic realm: words that allowed for the crossing of the border from Jews to others who suffered. Today, when the uses and abuses of historical comparisons are so intensely debated, Glaser reminds us that thinking through analogies—translating untranslatable suffering—is inextricably bound up with empathy. Though set in the catastrophic ‘long 1930s,’ Songs in Dark Times speaks uncannily to our present moment.—Marci Shore, author of Caviar and Ashes: A Warsaw Generation’s Life And Death In Marxism, 1918–1968

Glaser takes us on a truly international journey: from China to riot-torn Palestine to the Jim Crow American South to war-torn Spain to Soviet Ukraine. It is a compelling journey guided by an astute literary scholar with a keen sense of historical context. Intriguing, original, and acutely intelligent, Songs in Dark Times will take its place as one of the finest analyses of Yiddish literature to have been written in several decades. It is a joy to read, and I recommend it heartily.—Joshua M. Karlip, author of The Tragedy of a Generation: The Rise and Fall of Jewish Nationalism in Eastern Europe

Songs in Dark Times impresses and delights with close readings, careful analysis, breadth of vision, and unmistakably transnational sensibility. Glaser uses the key term ‘passwords’ to enter a radically reconfigured space in which Yiddish writers of the interwar period used markers of Jewish identity to embrace other marginalized groups. This welcome intervention in Jewish studies and comparative literature has an added bonus: Glaser’s translations of ten Yiddish poems, with work by women writers not readily available elsewhere.—Harriet Murav, author of David Bergelson’s Strange New World: Untimeliness and Futurity

Glaser tells the story of too-little-known interventions in modernist Jewish and North American poetry, chronicling the ingenuity of Yiddish communist poets, who used their ethnic and social particularity as a means to join international struggles against injustice, racism, and economic inequality. Chock full of provocative poems, still simmering debates, and irresolvable contradictions, Songs in Dark Times is fascinating, informative, challenging, exuberantly archival, and necessary.—Charles Bernstein, author of Near/Miss

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