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  • Writer's pictureCorbin Allardice

My Lexicon - Mark Arnshteyn (Andrzej Marek)

Mark Arnshteyn

1879--Warsaw, trips in North and South America, after 1939, remained in Warsaw.

One can neither sit on two chairs nor dance at two weddings, that is, one can sit and one dance, and one can even do both at once: sitting at two weddings or dancing on two chairs--but that’s a pitiful sitting and a pitiful dancing.

Mark Arnshteyn is also known as Andrzej Marek and he imports Polishness into his Yiddish and Jewishness into his Polish; Mark Arnshteyn is an impresario of remarkable experience, caliber, and skill and yet Mark Arnshteyn is nowhere to be found in the world of Yiddish literature and hardly even in the Yiddish theater. At most, he represents Yiddish drama in a few anthologies of world theater. This is because you can never be quite sure of him. You might say something to Mark Arnshteyn, and hear Andrzej Marek answering. So, convinced that you are speaking to Andrzej Marek, you address him accordingly, your ears primed for his response, and it’s Mark Arnshteyn who answers you.

Mark Arnshteyn is always very serious, as one expects of a theatrical director from the Ibsen era to which he himself belongs. He continues to resemble the portraits of him as a young man, his beautiful, aristocratic face, his tshuprine (a forelock, clear in this picture of Arnshteyn), his hat and tie--although the winds of time have long since blown it all away, the hat and the tie, the tshuprine, and the pelerine, fashionable in the time of Stanisław Przybyszewski and Stanisław Wyspiański, those good friends in whose company Mark Arnshteyn became Andrzej Marek.

Always energetic--always daring, even. It was his call to write the Polish version of Leyvik’s The Golem and to stage it in the Warsaw circus as a sort of pseudo-Reinhardt production.

Indeed, one really can sit on two chairs and dance at two weddings, as we have clearly seen, but the tragedy is that both weddings quickly forget such a guest was ever there.

And we are a strange people, Jews, for we only recognize a writer who was also popular among Gentiles, we measure their success based on their success as measured by--but that is only true today; in the great tomorrow, in the eternal tomorrow, the Jewish people pay no attention whatsoever to Gentile metrics, judging everything by and only by our own metrics.

And Mark Arnshteyn invested all his talents in today.

I once saw him looking down from the balcony of the Association of Jewish Writers, it was a fine, Warsaw summer’s day and a huge wagon advertising his circus production of The Golem was passing by below; he was standing so tall and proud it was as if he was at a parade, his right hand placed between two vest buttons, a breeze had come and tousled his tshuprine, all he was missing was a Napoleonic bicorne. A moment of triumph in his life.

However the marriage of Jewish and Polish cultures led only to Pshitik (Przytyk), and the dreams of the well-meaning matchmaker--to chimney smoke caught in a storm on a dark November night…

Yet his (perhaps most beautiful) one-act play “The Eternal Song” (dos eybike lid) is still so simple and beautiful and almost eternal. It too is deeply Jewish. Es iz afile tif-yidish oykh.


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