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Straddling the Worlds of the Sacred and the Profane: Chaim Grade’s Work and Life

Mon, December 18, 1:15 to 2:45pm, Marriott Marquis Washington, DC, Marquis Salon 3

Session Submission Type: Panel Session


The Yiddish poet and novelist Chaim Grade (1910-1982) was never able to completely sever his bond with the yeshiva world in which he was born and raised. Until the end of his life, he remained a liminal figure, straddling the secular world he’d embraced and the yeshiva world he’d abandoned, yet couldn’t erase from his psyche. This panel examines selections of Grade’s work from when he was a young poet in Vilna prior to WWII and then focuses on his work and sources of tension in the last decade of his life. It draws on some of Grade’s personal correspondence, particularly unpublished letters he had written to his friend and patron, Abraham Bornstein. The letters shed light on Grade’s state of mind at the end of his life – his literary struggles as well as his psychological ones. The literary works predominantly studied by this panel are YO (1935), Grade’s volume of poetry in which he rejects his musar education, MUSERNIKES (1939), a narrative poem delving into the musar instruction of the Novaredok yeshiva, and BEYS HARAV (mid- 1970s to end of his life), a rich family saga that spans several decades of the twentieth century and three generations of the colorful, rabbinical Katzenellenbogen family.

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