chapter  7
12 Pages

An End to Fairy Tales: The 1930s in the mayselekh of Der Nister and mikhail krutikov

ByLeyb Kvitko

Literature for children, original and translated, occupied an important position on the agenda of the modernist revival of Yiddish (as well as Hebrew) culture. Its most original and creative period coincides with the short interlude between the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the consolidation of the Communist regime in the early 1920s. Its creative centre was the Kiev-based Yiddishist organization Kultur-Lige, which set a new model of children’s books as works of modernist art where the text is organically integrated with the image.2 Experimental in both form and content, these books occupy today a prominent place in the history of the European avantgarde. While the so-called ‘Bolshevization’ of the Kultur-Lige in 1920 had severely curtailed its creative freedom and pushed its leading members into emigration, the children’s literature branch retained a great deal of its creative energy and continued to f lourish well into the 1930s. In comparison to the earlier period, Soviet literary production for children during the 1930s was more conventional in style, conservative in content, and ideologically restricted. But the books were produced more lavishly and, arguably, found greater popularity with their target audience. From the early 1930s on, Yiddish literature for children, especially poetry, became increasingly available in translation into Russian, Ukrainian and other languages of the Soviet Union. These translations appeared in print runs that by far exceeded the original Yiddish publications.