Literature as a Medium of Memory
The World of Sholem Asch’s Novels
The main part of the book focuses on the presentation of the basic figures of memory included in the twenty six novels by Sholem Asch (1880-1957), a Yiddish writer. They can be assigned to various subject areas, their boundaries, however, are necessarily fluid because human memory does not allow itself to be easily forced into fixed theoretical frameworks. The areas in which memory crystallises in the depicted world of Asch’s works are on the one hand the world surrounding the man and almost independent of him, landscapes and nature, and on the other, the reality consciously shaped by people, towns and cities, home and family, religion, characteristic figures, festivities and everyday life, the world of dreams and ideas as well as the biblical and historical events to which the author refers. The characters appearing in the writer’s novels form the image of the world that is being passed on, helping to select and remember its crucial elements and at the same time adding to it new fragments unknown to the readers from their direct experience, but finding their way not only to the collective but also individual memory. Due to an almost complete lack of other broader studies concerning the writer’s life and work it was also necessary to pay attention in this book to biographical issues as well as Asch’s links with Poland, because documents of various kind, memoirs, and reviews help to better understand both the artist and his work, which in the case of Sholem Asch is very closely connected with the writer’s life, experiences, and aspirations.