Writing in Tongues

Translating Yiddish in the Twentieth Century

Anita Norich

  • Published: 2014
  • Subject Listing: Jewish Studies; Literary Studies
  • Bibliographic information: 160 pp., 1 illus., 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Series: Samuel and Althea Stroum Lectures in Jewish Studies
  • Contents

Writing in Tongues examines the complexities of translating Yiddish literature at a time when the Yiddish language is in decline. After the Holocaust, Soviet repression, and American assimilation, the survival of traditional Yiddish literature depends on translation, yet a few Yiddish classics have been translated repeatedly while many others have been ignored. Anita Norich traces historical and aesthetic shifts through versions of these canonical texts, and she argues that these works and their translations form an enlightening conversation about Jewish history and identity.
Anita Norich is professor of English and Judaic studies at the University of Michigan.

"Writing in Tongues is sophisticated yet wholly accessible, completely engaging, and beautifully written. It makes particularly adept use of witty (and often hilarious) epigraphs, personal stories, and moving reflections on what it means to write in a minority language."
-Barbara Henry, University of Washington

"Norich tells a compelling, moving, and intriguing story. No one has studied translation of Yiddish works into English so systematically, meticulously, and sensitively."
-Hana Wirth-Nesher, author of Call It English


1. Translation Theory and Practice: The Yiddish Difference

2. How Tevye Learned to Fiddle

3. Remembering Jews: Translating Yiddish after the Holocaust

4. Returning to and from the Ghetto: Yankev Glatshteyn

5. Concluding Lines and Conclusions

Appendix A / Anna Margolin's "Maris tfile" in Yiddish and Translations

Appendix B / Twelve Translations of Yankev Glatshteyn's "A gute nakht, velt"


"An excellent book . . . at no point is the discussion overly technical. First presented as part of the prestigious Stroum Lectures at the University of Washington, the chapter-lectures that make up Writing in Tongues are aimed at a general-but-educated audience. Norich writes clearly and simplifies abstruse ideas."
-Eitan Kensy, Forward