Keter: Fragments of a Rhapsody

Nathan Wolski (Translator)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleOtherpeer-review


This study presents a translation and analysis of Aaron Zeitlin’s (1898-1973) poem “Keter: Fragmenten fun a rapsodye,” published in 1923, at the height of the Warsaw expressionist explosion of the early twenties. The poem belongs to the same “neo-kabbalistic” phase in Zeitlin’s writings as his book-length poemMetatron: Apokaliptishe poema of the previous year. Unlike Metatron, which was very favorably received by Shmuel Niger, who saw in it an illustration of the power of modern myth, “Keter” was summarily dismissed by the critic as “a shtik kabole I couldn’t digest.” Zeitlin’s kabbalistic poetics offer a stunning, yet difficult, fusion of Yiddish expressionism and futurism on the one hand, and mystical and messianic thought on the other. Uncovering his kabbalilstic and hasidic sources reveals the depth of his poetic quest: the desire to transcend history, time, and duality. I conclude with some reflections on the critical failure of his project, which I explore through comparisons with Peretz’s neo-hasidism, and through the under-theorized, yet rich, term “literatoyre.”
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-30
Number of pages30
JournalIn geveb: A Journal of Yiddish Studies
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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