- Yiddish Fiction in Translation:Blume Lempel
Blume (Blanche) Lempel was born May 13, 1910 in Galicia. She emigrated in 1929 to Paris, and in 1939 to New York. She began writing in 1943, with a story published in Der Tog (The Day, a major New York Yiddish daily) using the pseudonym Rokhl Halperin. Her work was published by many Yiddish journals, and a novel was serialized in the daily newspaper Morgn Frayhayt (Morning Freedom). While this novel has not been published separately, she published two collections of stories, A Rege Fun Emes (A Moment of Truth, Tel Aviv, 1981) and Balade fun a Kholem (Ballad of a Dream, Tel Aviv, 1986). The story we present here, "A Song for a Jewish Soul," is from Balade fun a Kholem. Lempel lived in Long Beach, New York and received the Atran Prize for Yiddish Literature in 1985. She died October 20, 1999. We are grateful to her son, Paul Lempel, for permission to publish this story.
"A Song for a Jewish Soul" is a small story, representative of Lempel's deep concerns. Her writings are psychological and intense, with a spare, unadorned style. While she wrote frequently of those who died in the Holocaust or survived it, she was equally concerned with contemporary life, as in this story. Translator Julia Wolf Mazow tells us, "I have long been an admirer of Blume Lempel's work and teach it whenever I can. Her Yiddish is eloquent, and I hope my translation has captured in some small way her use of the language. I was caught by her stories with the very first one I read. They are contemporary, reflect frequently upon the Holocaust, and [End Page 96] show a deep understanding of the complexity of women. 'A Song for a Jewish Soul' demonstrates sensitivity and compassion for the young people who cross her path. Like them, Lempel's narrator grieves for the young woman who died."
Other stories by Blume Lempel available in English are: "Scenes on a Bare Canvas," translated by Sheva Zucker, published by Bridges in 1993 (3.2), and reprinted in the 2003 anthology Beautiful as the Moon, Radiant as the Stars; "The Death of My Aunt," translated by Ellen Cassedy, in Pakn Treger Winter 2002 (no. 38); and "Correspondents," translated by Irena Klepfisz, in the 1994 anthology Found Treasures.