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  • Writer's pictureCorbin Allardice

My Lexicon - Moyshe Broderzon

Moyshe Broderzon

Born in Moscow, 1890; Nesvizh, 1894; Lodz, 1900; Moscow, 1914; Lodz, 1918. Western European nations. Soviet Union, 1939.

What wonderful racial admixture was processed in the laboratory of Jewish genealogy to create so perfectly un-Jewish a product, so transracial a physique as that of the poet Moyshe Broderzon? And what kind of joke is it for a man with that face, in which every feature is so disproportionately big--a big mouth, a big nose, big eyes, a big forehead--and yet the face itself is proportional and aesthetic--not beautiful but aesthetic, in the way a work of art is--what kind of joke is it indeed for this raceless man, who resembles nothing other than an American Indian, to have so much Yiddish, so much language? Let alone his noisy organ (klangike, orgldike) of a voice, his too loud voice (don’t forget that every feature of Broderzon’s face is too big) which can play every instrument in the orchestra of language.

Having so much language is really a misfortune. It is the equivalent of owning an automobile which, as soon as you get in the driver’s seat, begins to drive itself. A car like that won’t always take you where you want to go. It is the equivalent of having a piano which, as soon as you sit on the bench, begins to play itself, shoving melodies in your face, playing with itself (lashtshet zikh), if you touch one key, twelve others answer you--on a piano like that, it’s hard to play what you want.

Broderzon is a genuine poet through and through--and, I would say, he is uniformly and fittingly a poet in body and soul (a dikhter glaykhmosik, arayngepast, tsugepast, a neshome-gufiker). In a word--a whole poet. His role in the field of language and artistic forms is commanding, commanding too in the field of the aesthetics of the Yiddish poem--but his influence is nowhere to be found on that other field, popularly known as ethics.

Like so many things in our literature, the subject of Broderzon--his language, form, style, rhythm, sound, content, rhyme, alliteration, and all other aesthetic properties--has yet to be sufficiently researched. A monograph is necessary. It would yield vast and interesting results and it would surely demonstrate that he enriched the treasury (oytser) of the Yiddish language--unlike the classics (klasikers), he did not perform the great and holy work of conservation--but he enriched and created anew (naygeshafn), for the time had already come when the work of conservation had been done and one could go no further down that path. While we’re on the subject, the work on enrichment belongs not to novelists (prozaiker), but to the poets. And Broderzon is from head to toe, from his colossal tie pin to his interdimensional ring, an aesthetic poet.

Broderzon suffers from too much form, his content swims around in it like a child drowning in their father’s clothes. But no, that is hardly an aesthetic comparison, and Broderzon is nothing if not aesthetic. His form is often too big for his content, which is no better than being too small, bursting apart and exposing--naked content. But this too is hardly aesthetic, and one must not talk this way when discussing Broderzon.

Broderzon created: the word yung-yidish (Young Yiddish); the word khalyastre (the gang) as the name for a literary group; his own poetic style which, although it did not become canonical (iz nit gevorn shule), survives to this day; the first modern (banaytn) Yiddish puppet theater; the first high-art Yiddish revue theater [Ararat, acronym for Artistisher Revolutsyonerer Revi-Teater (Artistic Revolutionary Revue-Theater.)]

Above all, Broderzon created a great mass of poems and children’s poems and grotesques and, finally, “performances,”* for which he will, mostly likely and in the final account, atone for, shaking the dust off that old form and filling it with more and more content. It will happen--his sketch “Shylock Laughs” (shaylok lakht), especially it’s powerful opening, proves it. As the preachers of the Salvation Army, standing every Sunday evening on every street corner of every Anglo-Saxon nation in the world, say: It is never too late for remorse and repentance.

And so I say to you: if our literature could stomach more luxury and if it were a different era in the world, the complete aesthete-poet Moyshe Broderzon, the man who was born an aesthete even in Moscow, wouldn’t have to give a damn about ethics; just as when you spend a summer evening sitting in a garden, enjoying the sunset and birdsong and it is all so very too would you be able spend an evening sitting in a fine poetic revue, listening to that wonderful organ of a voice--he is, by the way, a master of recitation--watching Moyshe Broderzon under a flag of his own design, and enjoying the play of words and the dance of thought, and it too would be so very ethical--just like that evening in the garden…


*- A reference to a book of 12 one-act plays by Broderzon entitled forshtelungen (Performances).

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