Avrom Sutzkever (1913-2010), also spelled Abraham Sutzkever or Avraham Sutskever, is one of the most prominent world poets and writers writing in Yiddish. The New York Times considered him “the greatest poet of the Holocaust”.
Sutzkever was born in Smorgon, in the czarist-era’s Vilna Province, and from 1921 he lived in Vilna. There, he became a member of city’s “Jung Vilna” group of writers and painters. His first poems were published in Warsaw Jewish papers in 1933. Two years later his first poetry book “Lider” came to light and he started to be referred as a rising Yiddish poetry star.
His work at the time celebrated nature, beauty, and language. When the Nazis occupied Lithuania in 1941, he was required to move into the Vilna Ghetto, where he became a central cultural figure, organizing and inspiring, exhibitions, lectures, revues, and poetry reading.
Sutzkever eventually escaped the ghetto and continued fighting against the Nazi forces. In 1947 he went to Palestine and settled in Tel Aviv. Here in 1948 he published his books “Di Yiddishe Gas” (“Jewish Street”) and “Geheimshtot” (“City of Secrets”), where he depicts Vilna Jewish life, dreary ghetto everyday life.
In 1966 A. Sutzkever was nominated for the Nobel Prize and in 1985, Sutzkever became the only recipient of the Israel Prize for Yiddish literature. In February 16, 2008 on the occasion of the Lithuanian Independence Day the Lithuanian President has awarded him with the Knight’s Cross of the Order of the Grand Duke of Lithuania Gediminas.
About the project
The project seeks to make Yiddish literary masterpieces accessible to Lithuanian readers and to resurrect to life the poetry of one the best, if not the best, Yiddish writers in his homeland and birthplace.
It is hard to describe the loss and misunderstanding that such a creator is very scarcely known in Lithuania. Just one book, Griner Akvarium (Green Aquarium), by Avrom Sutzkever is translated into Lithuanian by Mindaugas Kvietkauskas (who was recently appointed Lithuania’s Minister of Culture). It was a good start which revealed the beauty and the depth of the talent of A. Sutzkever.
The project is to fulfil the expectations of the poetry lovers as well as to make A. Sutzkever and Yiddish culture more widely known in Lithuania and integrated as part of Lithuanian – Jewish culture. We believe that professionally made translation of selected poems by A. Suzkever is simply a must which is already lagging behind and has to be completed professionally as soon as possible.
A poet, essayist and translator Laurynas Katkus is considered someone who meets those demands due to his professionalism, devotedness to artistic and poetic creation and his translation skills. He is working with Akvilė Grigoravičiūtė, lecturer in Sorbonne University. She is doing the literal translation while Laurynas Katkus is shaping them into artistic, poetic form.
Benefits and value
Sutzkever’s poetry and literary creations are well known to Yiddish and Hebrew readers and his works have also been translated into more than 30 languages, including English.
Given Sutzkever’s relationship to the present capital city of Lithuania, translating his works into the Lithuanian language not only increases knowledge of his creations among Lithuanians but also increases the knowledge and acceptance of Lithuanian Jewish culture as a component of Lithuania’s multi-ethnic cultural heritage.
This literary heritage is complex from cultural point of view. The poet survived through a very complicated and dangerous period in Vilna Ghetto, he experienced all the hardships and dangers of the Holocaust. His masterful verses and prose with have a unique style which can be appreciated not only aesthetically but also treated as an object of historical and/or educational interest.
Realization of the project
The project has been started last year and currently is underway. The copyright agreement with the inheritor signed. The most of the initial translations had been done before 2019 and some will be added later this year.
The literary translations should be finished in September (1500 poetry lines), an introduction and commentaries written in September – October 2019, a nice colour design (with photos of original Sutzkever handwritings) for hard cover edition to be ready by the end of this year.
To finish the work in high quality standards we are in need of about 7000$
Support the project by sending donation via PayPal to: firstname.lastname@example.org or wire to: LT504010049501372679, Bank Code: 40100, SWIFT: AGBLLT2X.
You can also send us a check to: Vilnius Jewish Public Library Charity and Support Foundation, Gedimino pr. 24, Vilnius, LT-01103, Lithuania.
American citizens can support the project by tax deductable donations via our partners “Remembering Litvaks, Inc.”
Head of Vilnius Jewish Public Library Charity and Support Foundation
Mob. tel.: +37068776625