Monday, July 7, 2014

Coda IV


            Yasha Schulevitz then underwent a transformation not unlike a legion of his co-religionists.  He raised and lowered the banner of various ideologies:  the Jewish Enlightenment, Yiddhism, both its aesthetic and political arms, Communism, Bundism, Hebraism and Zionism, Psychoanalysis as a Metaphysical view of the world, and finally, in the eyes of his innumerable and dogged critics, egotistical nihilism.   
            And during all these sea changes he wrote sparkling, lucid Hebrew verse.  He penned occasional pieces for the Yiddish press, and each one, charged with venom and charm, caused riotous debate and even the occasional brawl.  His first collection of poems, Two Sisters, was widely rumored to be based on love affair he had with the wealthy daughters of a Warsaw neurologist.  The poems hinted at all manner of sexual malfeasance.  Yasha with one girl, and then the other; Yasha with them both simultaneously;  and the final insult to general morality, the girls together, and Yasha watching, an affront to nature and the Torah.  But Yasha’s poems were always of the highest caliber, even if his subject matter sparked the most violent debate. 
            Then began his lean years:  Yasha moved to Paris before the Great War, and when hostilities broke out, as an Austrian citizen he was detained as an enemy alien.  After the war he settled in Palestine, his beloved at the time, one of the wealthy Warsaw daughters, was killed in Arab rioting in Jerusalem.  So Yasha returned to Europe.  Tel Aviv and Jerusalem could not compare to the grander of Paris, Vienna, and even Warsaw.  And the antisemitism on display  in Europe was far more decorous than in the that in the Holy Land.    
            Then began the forgotten years:  For nearly a decade, no one heard a word from him.  Every now and again a piece would appear in the Yiddish Press under the by-line of his name.  And even a Hebrew poem or two would sprout up unexpectedly, like a flower during a winter thaw, in a literary journal.  A few fellow poets made inquiries about Yasha’s whereabouts but could find out nothing definitive.  The landlady at his last known address said he had “returned to the provinces.”  
           Yasha Schulevitz was then largely forgotten. 

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