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Itzik Manger

MANGER, ITZIK (1901–1969), Yiddish poet, dramatist, novelist. Born in Czernowitz, his first poem was published in 1921 in the Romanian Yiddish journal Kultur, and his first book of poems was Shtern Oyfn Dakh ("Stars on the Roof," 1929), where he combined folksong and bardic simplicity with sophisticated stanzaic structures and technical skill. The poems express delight in the entire universe and find beauty and value even in suffering and sorrow. In 1929 Manger moved to Warsaw, where he published more mature poems in Lamtern in Vint ("Lantern in the Wind," 1933). In his Khumesh Lider ("Bible Poems," 1935), patriarchal figures are portrayed as Eastern Europe shtetl Jews. Thus when Abraham welcomes the three angels, he is the pious Reb Avrom, in a silk skullcap and smoking a pipe; in speaking to Sarah, colloquial Yiddish expressions naturally spice his conversation. Manger's Megile-Lider ("Scroll Songs," 1936) recast the traditional Purim play as dramatic lyrics. He added new incidents and characters to the biblical narrative, such as the rivalry between the tailor's apprentice Fastrigosse and King Ahasuerus for the love of Esther. These ironic and sentimental lyrics were enthusiastically received when staged as a musical in Israel in 1967 and again in the United States (in English, 1968; music by Dov Seltzer). Manger also adapted *A.Goldfaden's plays for a post-Goldfaden generation; most successfully Di Kishefmakhern ("The Witch") and Dray Hotsmakhs ("Three Hotsmakhs,"1936, 1937). He paid tribute to Goldfaden, Eliakum Zunser, Berl Broder, and other predecessors with imaginative essays in Noente Geshtaltn ("Intimate Portraits," 1938, 1961; also in Shriftn in Proze "Writings in Prose," 1980). His most piquant tale is the imaginative novel, Dos Bukh fun Gan-Eydn (1939; English tr. by L. Wolf, The Book of Paradise, 1965), in which Shmuel-Abba, formerly an angel and now a newborn, relates his prenatal adventures in Paradise. The story is a satire on the imagined Eden and the harsh realities of Jewish life and human foibles.

Manger was most productive in Warsaw, where he also published Felker Zingen ("People Sing,"1936), Demerung in Shpigl ("Twilight in the Mirror," 1937), Far Yugnt ("For the Young," 1937), Velvl Zbarzher Shraybt Briv tsu Malkele der Sheyner ("Velvl Zbarzher Writes Letters to Malkele the Beautiful," 1937). He left Warsaw in 1938 for Paris. After unsuccessful attempts to reach Palestine and the United States, he escaped to London where he published Volkns iberndakh ("Clouds over the Roof," 1942), Hotsmakh Shpil ("Hotsmakh Play," 1947), and Der Shnayder-gezeln Notte Manger Zingt ("The Tailor-Apprentice Notte Manger Sings," 1948). In 1951 he moved to New York, where his volume of selected poems Lid un Balade ("Poems and Ballads") was published in 1952, and then in 1967, to Israel. His poems were translated into Hebrew, the principal European languages (English in S. Betsky, Onions and Cucumbers and Plums (1958), and in J. Leftwich, The Golden Peacock (1961)), and were included in the UNESCO anthology of world poetry in 1961. His short story "The Adventures of Hershl Summerwind" is in I. Howe and E. Greenberg, Treasury of Yiddish Stories (1965), 438–46. New translations of his work continued to be published.


E.H. Jeshurin, biblio. in Noente Geshtaltn (1961); LNYL, 5 (1963), 435–43; M. Ravitch, Mayn Leksikon (1945), 125–7; N. Meisel, Forgeyer un Mittseitler (1946), 394–407; S. Bickel, Shrayber fun Mayn Dor (1958), 133–44; J. Glatstein, In Tokh Genumen (1956), 306–14; S. Liptzin, Maturing of Yiddish Literature (1970), 232–8; Y. Mark, in: JBA, 28 (1970/71). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Ch. Kazdan, Itsik Manger (1968); idem, Di Letste Tkufe in Itsik Mangers Lebn un Shafung (1973); Y. Panner, Shtrikhn tsum Portret fun Itsik Manger (1976); Y. Hoffer, Itsik Manger (1979); D.G. Roskies and L. Woolf (eds), The World According to Itzik: Selected Poetry and Prose (2002); A. Shpiglblat, Bloe Vinklen: Itsik MangerLebn, Lid un Balade (2002).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.