The Mendele Review: Yiddish Literature and Language
(A Companion to MENDELE)

Contents of Vol. 12.004 [Sequential No. 195]
Date: 10 February 2008

On Waiting for Godot in Yiddish

1) This issue of TMR (ed).
2) Kalman Juvelier [Leksikon fun yidishn teater, 1934]
3) a. Score cover of "A mentsh zol men zayn"
b. Enlarged half-view of score cover of "A mentsh zol men zayn"
c. Score cover 1 of "Dos emese yidishe harts" as sung by Juvelier
d. Score cover 2 of "Dos emese yidishe harts" as sung by Juvelier
e. Kalman Juvelier sings "A mentsh zol men zayn" (MP3 download)
Samuel Beckett's Lucky in Yiddish: Two Translations Compared
5) Portrait of Gizela Shkilnik
6) Gizela Shkilnik's Yiddish translation of Lucky's monologue
7) Portrait of Rina Yosifon
8) Rina Yosifon's Yiddish Translation of Lucky's monologue
9) A Yiddishpiel flyer

Date: 10 February 2008
From: ed.
This issue of TMR

Bar-Kokhba was a central subject in the last issue of TMR. There we heard a duet sung by Regina Prager and Kalman Juvelier, the latter a Yiddish theater celebrity whom we look at more closely here. We reproduce the 1934 entry on Juvelier spelled Yovilar from Zalmen Zylbercweig's invaluable Leksikon fun yidishn teater. (Students of the Yiddish theater will find Faith Jones' index to persons in all six volumes immensely helpful: *** We give two sheet music covers of "A mentsh zol men zayn," which Juvelier often sang. The song's title takes its name from a folk saying whose transformation in the past century is of socio-linguistic interest. The translation 'Be a Man!' on one of the covers does not convey the sense of 'Be a good person,' which the expression was eventually to acquire.) [See]. *** The first sheet music cover of "A mentsh zol men zayn" given here is crammed with information: lists of the most popular Yiddish songs of the period and portraits of fifteen of the most popular contemporary composers and singers. An MP3 download of Kalman Juvelier singing "A mentsh zol men zayn" is here appended as well as two sheet music covers of "Dos emese yidishe harts" as sung by Juvelier. *** TMR readers are likely to be surprized that what has been called the most important drama of the twentieth century, Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, originally written in French, translated into English by the author, subsequently translated into every major language in the world, a brilliant as well as a difficult work whose explications vary widely, also exists in Yiddish we are reminded that the "high culture" functions of Yiddish have often been denied. There are two known Yiddish translations of the play Gizela Shkilnik's posthumously published version from German issued by the Y.-L. Perets Farlag in Tel-Aviv in 1980 and a relatively recent unpublished version from English by Rina Yosifon of Haifa. The translators are briefly introduced and their translations of the Lucky monologue summarily compared readers will wish to make their own comparisons. It should be clear from these two translations that Yiddish is a wholly adequate medium for the highest ranges of literary art. *** The highly successful Israeli Yiddish theater group Yiddishpiel [see] announces a cabaret evening featuring skilled performers. Apparently there will always be an audience for such events and for light entertainment generally. Only a repertoire theater catering to a select audience and enjoying adequate subsidies could contemplate staging a Waiting for Godot in Yiddish. In North America, universities have proved friendly to serious theater. With Yiddish said to be taking stronger and stronger hold in the academy, perhaps we can look forward to a sterling event in the history of the Yiddish theater (an institution which educated its own audiences and strove to contain shund) -- namely, a Yiddish production of Samuel Beckett's masterpiece..

Date: 10 February 2008
From: Robert Goldenberg
Subject: Kalman Juvelier

Kalman Yovilir [sic] [Juvilier]

Zalmen Zylbercweig, Leksikon fun der yidishn teater, vol. 2, Warsaw, 1934, cols. 909-910.

Date: 10 February 2008
From: Robert Goldenberg
Subject: "A mentsh zol men zayn"

Click on any picture to enlarge

[MP3 download]:

Date: 10 February 2008
From: ed.
Samuel Beckett's Lucky in Yiddish: Two Translations Compared

Gizela (nee Heyman) Shkilnik (1910-1978) was born in Kolomey, Galicia in 1910, lived in Tshernovits [Czernowitz, Cernauti , Chernovtsy, Chernivtsi] from 1918 to 1935, then emigrated to Sao Paulo, Brazil where she died in 1978. Not a well known name in the Yiddish world, she earns no entry in the Leksikon fun der yidisher literatur (vol. 8, New York, 1982), but Berl Kagan corrects this omission in his 1986 Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (New York, 1986, col. 534). A printed source for the facts of her life is Yitskhok Guberman's five-page introduction to her Waiting for Godot translation. German was her first language and she translated Eliezer Shteynbarg's Fables into that language. It was from a German edition of Waiting for Godot that she produced her Yiddish version of the play. She also translated Nelly Sachs' Eli (Tel-Aviv, 1974) from the German original.

Haifa-born Rina Yosifon is a native Yiddish speaker with a strong interest in drama, and especially the work of Samuel Beckett. A professional translator into both Yiddish and Hebrew (and particularly from Yiddish to Hebrew), she studied in the Yiddish Department of the Hebrew University under Dov Sadan and Khone Shmeruk. She was employed for a number of years in the Yiddish Division ('Ha-Makhlaka le-yidish') of Kol Yisrael, the Voice of Israel radio channel, which was especially active in its broadcasts to the Diaspora (Kol Yisrael la-Gola'). Her assignments included radio-announcing as well as editing of programs. She is well-acquainted with the American stage, having spent many years in the United States. She has been commissioned to translate several plays, The Sunshine Boys among them. Unfortunately, these plays have not made their way to the stage but at the least deserve to be printed. In the present issue of TMR we give but a single monologue from Yosifon's rather colloquial rendition of Beckett's haunting play, which may be contrasted with Shkilnik's somewhat more formal (and slightly daytshmerish) version of the same famous monologue.

I have experimentally prepared a color-coded glossary of difficult or nonce words in both versions of Lucky's monologue. The original French text of Lucky's seemingly meaningless barrage of words contains numerous puns and word play that make his speech anything but meaningless. Much of this is lost in the German and English versions and consequently in the Yiddish versions -- from which Shpilnik and Yosifon worked. For a comprehensive study of Lucky's role in Waiting for Godot, see the encyclopedic website on the play.

Here one finds an interlinear French and English text of Lucky's monologue and challenging critical assessments. The analysis of Edith Kern cited from her Beckett's Modernity and Medieval Affinities may change the directions of many TMR readers' understanding of the play:


. . . it is above all in Luckys speech, that torrent of seeming madness, that Becketts mingling of the sacred and the profane and even the scatological assumed truly medieval aspects. In the manner of participants in mediaeval farce [e.g., the Festival of the Ass, an annual savage parody of the Latin Mass using the bawdiest of language], Lucky turns traditional patterns of reasoned discourse and theological debate into farce.

Yet the seriousness of his concerns becomes apparent when we strip his speech of its carnivalesque elements. He then seems to suggest something like "given the existence . . . of a personal God . . . with white beard . . . outside time . . . who from the heights of divine . . . aphasia loves us dearly with some exceptions for reasons unknown . . . and suffers with those who . . . are plunged in torment . . . it is established beyond all doubt . . . that man . . . fades away" .  . . . It is clearly patterned after a mediaeval French sermon joyeux, a burlesque sermon of the kind preached in churches during carnivalesque celebration . . . [that] often travesties sacred texts by speaking of food, drink and sex as if they were discussing theology or vice versa.

. . . Such phrases as "labours left unfinished", "for reasons unknown", together with heaven, hell, flames and fire conjure up a world presided over by a god as inscrutable as he is unpredictable, while the phrase "it is established beyond all doubt" ridicules the foolish and arrogant certainties of certain scholars. Like a mediaeval fool, Lucky truly leaps from topic to topic, as he turns the world mockingly upside down.

Date: 10 February 2008
From: ed.
Subject: Portrait of Gizela Shkilnik

Date: 10 February 2008
From: ed.
Subject: Gizela Shkilnik's Yiddish translation of Lucky's monologue


-: .-. , 1980, ' 86-90

( )

( )

* * * * * , * , , * * .

[ . ]


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9 18 ...

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[[red= Yiddish but not in H, N or W
[green= nonsense word
repeats or imitates what Beckett wrote *]


Glossary to Shkilnik

<ausschaltung NHG 'elimination'
'cause; reason' [Not StY [but found in H,N & W]
, but see 'atom' nonsense word
see NHG achtgeben
(anthropo makes sense, but pometisher not)
but mimics apathy > [Kern prefers aphasia] nonsense
vulgar pun on 'academic'
[???[Not StY cf. NHG leider ' alas; unfortunately'
(Latin 'age' ; 'generation'),
'lumber-rooms' NHG

Date: 10 February 2008
From: ed.
Subject: Portrait of Rina Yosifon

Date: 10 February 2008
From: ed.
Subject: Rina Yosifon's Yiddish translation of Lucky's monologue





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Glossary to Yosifon

[[red= Yiddish (Hebrew) but not in H, N or W
repeats what Beckett wrote *]
[ 'cause; reason' [Not StY [in Harkavi, Niborski and Weinreich]
Hebrew 'heights'> Yiddish

Date: 10 February 2008
From: ed.
Subject: Yiddishpiel flyer




End of The Mendele Review Issue 12.004

Editor, Leonard Prager
Editorial Associate, Robert Goldenberg

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