Best selling author and native Yiddish speaker Michael Wex has launched an indiegogo campaign to translate what he is calling the most important work of world literature that you've probably never heard of. The book, written by Joseph Opatoshu in 1921 when he was a young Polish immigrant living in New York City is an historical novel about 19th century Jewish Eastern Europe:
A vast panorama of Jewish life in Poland during the 1850s, Opatoshu's novel concentrates on backwoods Jews who live among gentile peasants rather than in Jewish communities in cities or shtetlekh. Touching as it does on hasidism, heresy, pre-Christian Polish folk customs, wife-swapping, messianism, and Polish nationalism, this book will change the way you think about Jewish life in Poland.
When he completes the work in about a year the translated novel will be released under a Creative Commons license. Wex hopes that a new translation will bring Opatoshu's 1921 novel to a broader audience. "It'll change everybody's views of Jewish life in Poland,' Wex writes. 'If this campaign works, it'll also help other translators find a way to fund their own projects and establish a whole library of world literature that hasn't been translated into English before or has never been translated properly. Raising the money in advance means that the translators can work full time; since the finished product doesn't cost anything, they don't have to worry about a book's commercial potential. It's like a grassroots Guggenheim."
Wex wrote the wonderful book Born to Kvetch, which I reviewed in 2009.
New Authorized Translation of a Classic Yiddish Novel into English
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