The Yiddish writer David Fram, born in Lithuania, wrote much of his important work in South Africa, but never lost touch with his origins and with the tragic catastrophe which overwhelmed them. Fram is not as widely known outside of the Yiddish-reading world as he should be, but Hazel Frankel's new book Holocaust and Home: The Poetry of David Fram from Lithuania to South Africa aims to put that right. Part literary study, part anthology, the book presents Fram and his verse to English and Yiddish readers alike. Here's a little taste, from the Browning-esque dramatic monologue Diamonds, in the poet's own translation into English:
These brilliants, you see them, my child, do you see —
For me they were made and created for me,
By unwilling hands in the darkness of night,
While digging with greed and with a grasping eye,
Through evenings empty and unending days,
Exploring and sifting deep-down underground,
For me and for you they were sought and were found.
And now they are glittering, icy and cold,
With fear and with horror that are hidden and deep,
And holding you tight in their deadening grip.
Our book cover shows a Lithuanian barn swallow in flight. Its heroic annual migration, from Lithuania all the way down to South Africa and even as far as Cape Town, forms a quiet connection between these distant lands, just as David Fram's poetry does.
Holocaust and Home is due out in our Studies in Yiddish series in 2022.