Ghost Cities: Aaron Zeitlin’s Post-Holocaust Poetry

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  • 1 1 New York

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There are two cities that are featured in Zeitlin’s poetry composed in America during and after the Holocaust, one real and one remembered. Zeitlin is physically in New York and often refers to the city of his real time; however, the author and his poems are possessed by the ghosts of Jewish Warsaw. The-Warsaw-that-is-no-more is often transposed on the geography of New York. Warsaw becomes New York’s ghostly twin, and Zeitlin, a walking shadow whose body is in New York, but whose spirit has gone up in flames with the murdered Jews of Warsaw. In this paper, I demonstrate how Zeitlin creates a paranormal rhetoric of ghosts, astrals, phantoms, and shadows in order to navigate an eradicated world. Various landmarks in New York become portals to this lost world, and crossing the street can become a metaphor for connecting with the deceased.

  • 1

    A. Zeitlin, ‘Der kult fun gornisht un di kunst vi zi darf zayn: protest un ani-mamin,’ Varshever shriftn (Warsaw 1926) 7, 1-9.

  • 5

    A. Zeitlin, ‘Real,’ Lider fun khurbn un gloybn (New York 1970) vol. 2, 286-287. Probably from the 1920s, but not dated. Future citations of poems from this two-volume anthology will be cited as Zeitlin I, or Zeitlin II. All translations are mine.

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  • 7

    Y. Yanasovitsh, ‘Arn Tsaytlin,’ Pinkes far der forshung fun der yidisher literatur un prese (New York 1965-1975) 129.

  • 8

    I.B. Singer, ‘Arn Tsaytlin—Tsu zibetsik yor,’ Di goldene keyt 65 (1969) 14.

  • 9

    Yanasovitsh, ‘Arn Tsaytlin,’ 131.

  • 14

    H. Zeitlin, ‘Di benkshaft nokh sheynheyt,’ Shriftn (Warsaw 1910) 34.

  • 19

    Adams, Magic Realism, 174.

  • 20

    Adams, Magic Realism, 175.

  • 22

    Zeitlin, Ha-metziut ha-aheret, 128.

  • 23

    I.B. Singer, ‘The Séance,’ The Collected Stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer (New York 1982) 198-206.

  • 24

    T. Mishkin, ‘Magic Realism in the Short Fiction of Isaac Bashevis Singer,’ Studies in American Jewish Literature 22 (2003) 3.

  • 27

    L. Rokhman, ‘Di levaye,’ Der mabel (Jerusalem 1978). Scant critical attention has been paid to Leyb Rokhman; however, according to Dan Miron, ‘Leyb Rokhman (1918-1978) was perhaps the only Yiddish writer of fiction who understood the need for innovative tonality in writing on the Holocaust’ (see ‘Yiddish Prose,’ in The yivo Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe online).

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