Over the years, under the direction of the literary scholars and siblings Ruth Wisse and David Roskies, and in a partnership between Yale University Press and my employer, the Yiddish Book Center, the New Yiddish Library produced a series of truly excellent volumes: sharp, careful, readable translations of masterpieces of world literature, accompanied by rich introductions and footnotes by leading scholars. There are, of course, plenty of other translations of Yiddish literature by various hands and of varying quality, but the New Yiddish Library set the gold standard.
And, until now, that gold was a little pricey. Not extravagantly so — published by Yale, the volumes were gorgeously produced and inexpensive by academic press standards, but they were still mostly too costly to assign to college students. And, for that matter, more expensive than most of what’s on the tables at your local Barnes & Noble.
Thanks to a new partnership with Open Road Media, an ambitious e‑book publisher founded by publishing veteran Jane Friedman, the books are now not just available on every device you can name (Nook, iPhone, an so on), but they’re reasonably priced. Or, to put it another way, the only thing standing between you and a genuine literary treasure — be it the stories of Mendele the Book Peddler, the gritty tales of Lamed Shapiro, or the delightful poetry of Itzik Manger — is less than what you’d spend on a movie ticket.
- A review of The Zelmenyaners: A Family Saga
Josh Lambert is the academic director of the Yiddish Book Center and visiting assistant professor of English at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He’s the author of American Jewish Fiction: A JPS Guide (2009) and Unclean Lips: Obscenity, Jews, and American Culture (2014), which received a Jordan Schnitzer Book Award from the Association of Jewish Studies and a Canadian Jewish Book Award. His reviews and essays have been published by the New York Times Book Review, the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Haaretz, Tablet, the Forward, New England Public Radio, and many other publications.