II. Boris Kahanowitz slept for only an hour and then awoke, fuming. He had made that idiotic, drunken oath in front of that pack of poltroons, those Yiddish and Hebrew poets who unlike Boris Kahanowitz had never fired a shot either in anger or otherwise, and certainly never dug a ditch, worked on a assembly line, or plowed a field despite their high flown rhetoric about the Working Class.
He knew what would greet him out in the streets, the cafes and taverns: “Hey Boris, have you found your man yet?” “Boris, have you brought back Reb Schulevitz by his ear locks? Plucked him wet and steaming from the mikveh?” Boris had made himself a laughing stock just because one poet asked if a line of his verse was inspired by Schulevitz. And how could it not be, when Boris Kahanowitz had spent some seven years under the great poet’s tutelage?
For the past ten years, the Hebrew poet and Yiddish journalist and essayist Yasha Schulevitz had become the material of abiding legend. He had been a success in the modest circles of Hebrew poetry, and a rage in the wider arch of Yiddish letters, and then one day he disappeared. The act of non-being had done more for his writing career than the state of being, which was ironic to the hilt since Yasha no longer wrote so much as a yud.
Versions of his life’s tale circulated in variants. They had paths of divergence, but they all involved great travail, privation, love gained and then lost, fortunes won and later squandered. Jewish Warsaw was a large but concentrated village. Yiddish newspapers were read while still wet from the press, and contained all manner of salacious material. A current of gossip like a live wire snaked through the ranks of Jews in this city, and that energy fed all manner of legends and tall tales with rich fodder. With a little luck, either good or bad, a man or woman could become a myth. And Yasha’s biography was primed for such deification.