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Langages, politique, histoire. Avec Jean-Claude Zancarini

Romain Descendre
Jean-Louis Fournel

1. Points de vue et conquêtes

Translating languages, translating cultures A story of two 20th century Renaissance movements

Leora Auslander et Thomas C. Holt

Texte intégral

1In the early decades of the 20th century, while most African Americans living in the United States and most Jews living in the Russian Empire were subjected to explicit racism, manifested in both cases by residential and occupational segregation that left the majority poor and poorly educated, a small, but significant, minority, escaped these ghettoes and made their way to their nation’s respective cultural capitals, New York and Moscow, where university education and economic opportunities were more readily available. Although accused of having left “their people” behind and yielding to the siren call of assimilation, some among this emerging Jewish and African American intellectual and artistic elite worried about the encroachment of “modernity” on the worlds that they had left behind and mourned its anticipated loss. Their grief was not generated by a desire to return to the shtetl or to the rural South but rather by a conviction that it was important that those cultures be preserved because they embodied an authentic mode of being, and, more specifically, an authentic mode of being Jewish or Black. Despite having made successful lives in these modern metropolises, some of those intellectuals and artists felt that their quest for fulfillment in the cultural and social forms of the dominant society had failed and the experience of spiritual longing and anomie this produced led them to search for sources of renewal in the places from whence they, or their parents, had come.

2Eastern European Jews and African Americans shared this sense of a disappearing, more authentic, world with many others. Consciously or not they were both part of an explosion of cultural revitalization, or renaissance, movements that erupted throughout the Atlantic world from the turn of the 20th century through the decade following the First World War. The intellectual discourse of the interwar years in particular was shaped by a pervasive disappointment with modernity and its false promises, notwithstanding a desperate wish to be “modern” in literary and other cultural forms and expression, which produced striking similarities among these otherwise diverse renaissance movements and sometimes mutual influences. From Eastern Europe to Ireland to Haiti, the thirst for cultural revitalization faced the common task of reconciling traditional identities with modernity – whether defined by language and religion, as in the case of Jews and the Irish, or class and racial stereotypes, as in the case of African Americans and other peoples of African descent in the Americas. Their common dilemma: to choose exclusive identification with a past culture risked becoming irrelevant to and excluded from modern life and, in a very real sense, the future; and, yet, to abandon one’s traditional culture entirely for modernity would deprive one of the very basis for entering into vital conversations about the fate of “traditional” values and mores in modern cultural regimes. Real knowledge and fulfillment lay in the future, therefore, but knowledge of one’s past was a prerequisite to gaining access to the present. Thus did “modernist” ambitions cohabit with quests for authenticity, for the recovery of lost cultures.

3This dilemma explains, in part at least, how a fascination with “the primitive” emerged in European and American scholarship and art as well as the phenomenal popularity of the new discipline of ethnography and of Folk Studies. A collection of Jewish folk objects, gathered in response to an appeal by a Hamburg rabbi, would form the heart of the museum of the Gesellschaft für jüdische Volkskunde in 1898. A decade later the Historical-Ethnographic Society of St. Petersburg was founded, an institution that would sponsor Semyon An-sky’s work in the Ukranian regions of Volynia and Podolia just before and during the First World War. In the United States, Zora Neale Hurston, a native of an all-black town in rural Florida, moved to New York City to study with Franz Boas, the preeminent anthropologist at Columbia University, who encouraged her to undertake research on ostensibly disappearing folk cultures in the rural South. Ethnographers captured language use, folk tales, songs, recipes, and artisanal and ritual practices, recovered the material cultures and the artifacts of religion where possible, and acquired the clothing, pots and pans, and agricultural implements of everyday life. Deposed in museums, transcripts, or early recordings, folk culture became an object of observation and analysis, protected, preserved and unchanging, as if in a bell jar. The fact that the institutions of the dominant, modern culture would supply the means of preserving the culturally authentic and traditional was both ironic and a potential threat to its integrity.

4Intellectuals and artists seeking renewal as well as preservation saw other possibilities in the cultural goods carefully collected on these ethnographic expeditions. Semyon An-sky and Zora Neale Hurston, for example, were among the avant-garde of intellectuals active in those movements who concluded that academic ethnographic methods alone would objectify these cultures, freezing them in time, rendering Jews and African Americans always already primitive and reinforcing a pernicious and false dichotomy between an ostensibly authentic primitivism and assimilated modernism. Thus, they sought to meld the “archaic” and the “modern” in genres that allowed an escape from the authenticity demanded by ethnography, history, and museum collections. They turned to imaginative expression through plays, operas, poetry, music, graphic design and fiction, all of which provided access to a far broader public than they could reach through scholarly tomes. Indeed, they imagined that the Jewish and African American Renaissances might give these cultures new life. These artists, musicians, and authors would try to translate archaic and particularistic practices and aesthetics into modernist and universalist tropes, thereby reviving an authentic Jewishness and Blackness even as they made them “modern” and accessible to a dominant public. A core challenge to this project was language itself.

5Consequently, Jean-Claude Zancarini’s and Jean-Louis Fournel’s description of their Machiavelli translation project inspired us to think more deeply about our own efforts to disentangle the multiple threads connecting the subordinated peoples of the Atlantic world, a project in which the translation of language and culture more generally is central. As Zancarini and Fournel have explained their project to us, the translator must recognize the historical specificity of any given language, and most especially that language both constrains and enables the expression of lived experience. After justifying in the preface of their joint translation of Machiavelli’s Prince their decision to retain many aspects of the original Italian despite the difficult prose it would produce in modern French, they write:

  • 1  Machiavel, Le Prince. Traduction et commentaire, J.-L. Fournel et J.-C. Zancarini, Paris, Presses (...)

Notre conviction est que, de ce fait, la distance initiale ainsi occasionnée peut restituter le surgissement d’une écriture unique et son étrangeté originelle. Le décalage volontaire que notre traduction introduit voudrait ainsi susciter l’interrogation et, pour partie, aider à retrouver ce sentiment de surprise qu’eurent les contemporains de Machiavel lorsqu’ils découvrirent le De principatibus.1

  • 2  B. H. Edwards, The Practice of Diaspora: Literature, Translation, and the Rise of Black Internatio (...)

6We are struck by the resonances between Zancarini’s and Fournel’s insights about linguistic practices and those expressed by the literary historian Brent Hayes Edwards in his discussion of black diasporic cultures in the early 20th century, a work focused on the slippage in cultural meanings between expressions of African Americans and the Afro-French (Antillians and West Africans). Echoing Zancarini’s and Fournel’s use of the term “décalage” to signal a distance created by time, Edwards uses it to signal a distance created by space. As Edwards’ work shows, the differences among the racialized social formations on both sides of the Atlantic can be as compelling and informative as the undeniable similarities they share. Sorting out and interpreting the continuities and discontinuities in these like experiences and histories, Edwards frames the problem of translation as it refers both to how we understand language use – as in the socially meaningful but different meanings assigned to “black” vs “noir” in English and French, respectively – and how we account for the experience of being and living as American and Black or francophone and Noir. Edwards attempts to capture both phenomena in the image of “décalage”, which suggests at once how an experience, like language, can be similar and yet dissimilar, with the conceptual space between sameness and difference alerting us to the greater depths of the experiences as well as the nuances of these respective linguistic experiences2.

  • 3  Although there is no evidence of direct influences between the Eastern European Jewish and African (...)

7Drawing on these very different yet complementary uses of “décalage” to convey how the familiar is made strange and vice versa, we have juxtaposed two cultural movements engaged by groups that, on the surface at least, were strange to each other: Eastern European Jews and African Americans. Each created roughly contemporaneous cultural movements – the Jewish Renaissance of Central and Eastern Europe and the African American Renaissance centered in Harlem – that sought to meld “authentic” and “avant-garde” forms both to spiritually renew a people in danger of losing their historical uniqueness even as it made a claim for their place in modernity. Although these movements did not directly influence each other, the striking congruence of the projects they attempted and the constraints they confronted suggest powerful commonalities among cultural revitalization movements generally3. Not unlike many of the classical Renaissance figures that Zancarini and Fournel have studied, their 20th century counterparts confronted a profound problem of “décalage” as they sought to deploy the traditions of their past to authorize innovations in their present. Moreover, much like the contemporary French readers of Fournel’s and Zancarini’s translation of The Prince might experience the sensation of participating in two worlds, the negotiation of temporally and spatially different worlds produced a set of paradoxes in both language and cultural form for members of the Black and Jewish Renaissances.

8In our comparative project, the linguistic paradox was most readily legible and explicit in the Jewish case. The languages available to participants in the Jewish Renaissance of the Russian Empire were Yiddish, Hebrew, and Russian. The choice among them was tension-filled, however. Yiddish was the lingua franca of the vast majority of the Empire’s Jewish population, and the only active language for most. Yiddish, a Germanic Language written in Hebrew characters, had by the early 20th century produced a vibrant literary tradition. Yiddish readers had at their disposition both original texts and translations of academic scholarship, political tracts, liturgical texts, novels, newspapers, short stories, poetry, and plays. Despite this cultural wealth, however, Yiddish was considered by many Europeans to be a degraded and inferior linguistic form, derisively referred to as “jargon”. That judgment was a result of the connotations of the language rather than its intrinsic qualities. Not only was Yiddish spoken solely by Jews, but it was understood to be both a symptom and the cause of Jewish isolation. It was further demeaned as the language of women, who recited their prayers translated into Yiddish while men worshipped in the original Aramaic and Hebrew. Yiddish was the “mamaloshen”, of Eastern European Jews, literally the mother tongue, the essence of authenticity but with more than a hint of archaism. Jews of the Russian Empire were also well aware that Yiddish was one Jewish vernacular among many; it was spoken only by the Ashkenazi, while Sephardi Jews spoke Ladino, the Jews of North Africa Judeo-Arab and so on. Many urban European Jews, furthermore, no longer understood Yiddish. Thus, while some writers of Jewish Renaissance championed its use, others came out of, or joined, the Hebrew revival movement. Hebrew had the advantage of being a potentially universal Jewish language: it was the ritual language of all (but the native tongue of only a small population in Palestine); it had a place of honor among the classical languages; and, it had not been sullied by years of ghettoization. It is not surprising, therefore, that some of those seeking a “rebirth” of the Jewish people, made Hebrew their literary and scholarly language. The choice of Hebrew brought with it, however, other constraints both symbolic and real. Key was that, like Yiddish, writing in Hebrew limited one’s audience to Jews, and a small subset of Jews at that. Insofar as the Renaissance movement aimed to not only revitalize Jewish culture, but also create space for it in modernity, this was a serious problem. The use of Russian could not fully address the problem, since the goal of the Renaissance was not to abandon tradition but rather to translate it into modern terms. The abandonment of Jewish languages, whether Yiddish or Hebrew, would signal to many, the death, not the revitalization, of Jewish culture.

9Those involved in the contemporary African American Renaissance faced a parallel conundrum. Unlike the role Hebrew played among Jews, there was no common language of the African Diaspora, but there were various forms of what came to be known as “Black English” occupying a place not entirely dissimilar to Yiddish. Mainstream English denoted education and relatively elite status, or aspirations, while the language spoken by African Americans in the rural South was often unintelligible not only to Whites but to northern or educated African Americans as well and unlike Yiddish it was not a language of written expression. After nearly a century of denigrating parodies of rural black speech in minstrel shows, any effort to reproduce it in fiction or on the stage were bound to reinforce those stereotypes, undercutting any claims for full and equal participation in modern culture. For many Renaissance writers, however, the folk idiom was nonetheless understood to most fully embody and provide the means of expressing “authentic” black culture. Moreover, cultivating a privileged position as interpreters of folk culture offered the best chance of participating in an avant-garde intellectual and cultural discourse that was ambivalent about modernity and drawn to the primitive. Thus did the problem of linguistic translation epitomize the tensions evident in the problem of cultural translation more generally for both the African American and the European Jewish Renaissance movements.

10The complexity of these respective renaissance projects is revealed by the juxtaposition of two theatrical projects – Semyon An-sky’s Dybbuk and Zora Neale Hurston’s and Langston Hughes’ Mule Bone – each of which deployed folk expression in an effort to create a theatre relevant for modern audiences. Though the product of very different experiences and an ocean apart, each work claims the deep authenticity of folk expression. Each works against literalism, embracing fantastical plot devices and folk idioms that are by nature indirect, a language of signs and symbols. In each, however, the task of “translating” traditional and indigenous cultures into a modern idiom – to make them recognizable in modern terms of reference – proved insurmountable. However noble their instincts, this was a task for which the respective practitioners proved ill-prepared. But perhaps their efforts can be instructive about the general problematic they sought to address.

Semyon An-sky’s The Dybbuk

  • 4  This brief biography is taken from G. Safran, “Timeline: Semyon Akimovich An-sky / Shloyme-Zanvl R (...)

11Semyon An-sky, born Shloyme-Zanvl Rappoport in 1863 in the town of Chashnik, is emblematic of the Eastern European Jewish Renaissance4. Shloyme grew up in a poor and observant Yiddish-speaking household and was studying not only Hebrew but Russian by the time he was fourteen. A crisis of faith three years later led him not only to give up religious study and practice but to take up the socialist politics to which he would remain committed for the rest of his life. He spent a decade travelling through the Empire, combining manual labor, writing, and tutoring. From 1892 to 1905 he made his life in Western Europe, living through the Dreyfus Affair in Paris. During this period, most of his writing was in Russian, but he also started experimenting with Yiddish as a literary language. After his return to St. Petersburg in 1905, An-sky turned to ethnographic work, determined to preserve the traces of a shtetl culture in the process of disappearance. This fieldwork not only provided him with materials for his writing, but also the 1 000 artifacts that became the core of the Jewish Museum in St. Petersburg, founded in 1917, three years before his death. An-sky worked simultaneously to preserve shtetl culture and to revive it.

  • 5  S. An-sky, The Dybbuk and Other Writings, ed. and with introduction by D. G. Roskies, trans. G. We (...)
  • 6  S. L. Wolitz, “Inscribing An-sky’s Dybbuk in Russian and Jewish Letters”, in The Worlds of S. An-s (...)
  • 7  A dybbuk, in the Jewish tradition, was a demon, the soul of a deceased person, who having committe (...)

12Like its author, An-sky’s play, The Dybbuk, emblematizes the tensions and possibilities of the Jewish Renaissance5. In the words of the historian Seth L. Wolitz, “The Dybbuk was born on a ‘border’ and reflects the cultural hybridity of the Silver Age tsarist empire. The work is set among Hasidic Jews, intended for Russians and Jews using an imported aesthetic form: melodrama”6. Melodrama does, indeed, characterize the plot: the play opens with two very old friends, whose wives are due to give birth at the same time, swearing that their not-yet-born children will marry. This beginning foreshadows much misery; Jewish tradition forbids making plans for unborn children. Perhaps as a consequence of tempting the evil eye, one of the friends dies that night on his voyage back to his distant village. The surviving friend, Sender, loses contact with his dead friend’s widow and his son, Khonen. He himself prospers and aspires to a wealthy suitor for his daughter, Leah. In the meanwhile, Khonen has arrived in Sender’s village, Brinnitz, to study and falls in love with the girl to whom he was betrothed in the womb. Sender, not recognizing his old friend’s son, refuses the marriage because Khonen is a penniless student and Leah is married, against her will, to someone else. Lovelorn, Khonen turns away from the study of Talmud to the mystical practice of Kabbalah, forbidden to those deemed unready by the rabbis. He dies, perhaps because of this behavior, and enters Leah’s body in the form of a dybbuk7. She undergoes an exorcism, but does not survive it. Inspired by the dybbuk stories (as well as replies to his questionnaire about beliefs in the supernatural he had collected during his fieldwork), An-sky constructed a plot that was a curious melding of a Jewish folk-tale and Romeo and Juliet. Even more startling, and indicative of the challenges facing playwrights seeking to portray Jewish life, in order to convey Sender’s character, An-sky had recourse to the anti-Semitic trope of the avaricious Jew, far more attentive to his money than to his daughter.

  • 8  J. Neugroschel, p. xiii and letter from S. Ansky to Khaim Zhitlovsky, in Id., p. 1-2.

13The play was also a stylistic hybrid; the costumes, staging, choreography, acting technique and set design done by artists engaged in Moscow’s Expressionist movement, while the music, composed by Joel Engel who had accompanied An-sky on his ethnographic collecting trips, was largely based on chassidic niggunim, or songs composed to encourage a transcendent state appropriate to prayer. A key character, The Messenger, was an addition suggested by the avant-garde Moscow theater director and theorist, Konstantin Stanislavsky, and serves to both distance the audience from what is happening on stage, and to provide explanations8. The Dybbuk’s very aesthetic form, then, moved between the archaic and the modern, the Jewish and the Russian.

14It is the linguistic history of The Dybbuk that interests us as much as the plot and the style, however. An-sky wrote the first play version of The Dybbuk in Russian, hoping that the Moscow Art Theater would produce it, although that did not happen. He then published it in Yiddish in 1919; that version was first performed in Warsaw in 1920. Meanwhile, in 1918, the acclaimed poet, Hayim Nachman Bialek, published a Hebrew translation. The first professional Hebrew theater company, Habimah (founded in Moscow in 1917), performed the play in 1922 in Moscow and Tel Aviv. The play has had a long and distinguished performance history in both Yiddish and Hebrew, but it was never performed in Russian.

15This complex narrative, linguistic and aesthetic history reveals both the multivocality and paradoxes of the Jewish Renaissance; The Dybbuk seemed to have something for everyone. The love story, the Expressionist aesthetic used in the staging, dancing, and acting style, was familiar to non-Jewish theater goers, but exotic to Jews; the concept of the dybbuk, the hassidic tunes, and the social life and religious rituals portrayed would, by contrast, have been familiar to Jews but not non-Jews. Thus, while it evoked an aura of authenticity – seemingly putting the life of the shtetl on stage –, it was anything but. The Dybbuk was carefully crafted from both ethnographic finds and contemporary theatrical and aesthetic practice. It was, however, only successful in one half of the Renaissance’s mission – producing a usable past and future for modern Jews. Since it was never staged in Russian, it did not succeed in creating a space in the dominant culture for Jews. The Jewish Renaissance was, in the end, not as translatable beyond the Jewish world as An-sky and others would have hoped.

Hughes’ and Hurston’s Mule Bone

  • 9  C. Manuel, “Mule Bone: Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston’s dream deferred of an African-Ameri (...)
  • 10  G. Hutchinson, The Harlem Renaissance, p. 115, 157.

16Paralleling An-sky’s The Dybbuk and similarly emblematic of the aspirations and limitations of the cultural revitalization projects of early twentieth century was the collaboration of Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes to write the play Mule Bone: A Comedy of Negro Life. Unlike The Dybbuk, Mule Bone was never staged during Hughes’ and Hurston’s lifetimes, but their collaboration reflects nonetheless a core aspiration of the younger cohort of the Harlem Renaissance movement. Both authors had written separate manifestoes declaring their ambition to capture in written form the improvisatory traditions of black oral folk culture. Iconic figures among Harlem Renaissance writers, both Hughes and Hurston worked against mainstream styles and themes. Hughes was a serious student of the blues and many of his poems were set in the urban demi-monde of Harlem, mimicking the blues idioms he heard there9. In similar fashion, Hurston drew on her ethnographies of the rural South, especially her native Eatonville, Florida, seeking – as she put it – to reveal “the boiled down juice of human living”. What united them was their valorization of the social practices, values, and language of ordinary people. More specifically, however, it was Hurston’s conviction that African American folktales offered a “real” basis for theater that most directly shaped their collaboration10.

  • 11  Ibid., p. 104; A. Rampersad, I, Too, Sing America. The Life of Langston Hughes, 2 vols, 2nd ed., N (...)
  • 12  L. Hughes and Z. Neale Hurston, Mule Bone: A Comedy of Negro Life, G. H. Bass and H. L. Gates Jr., (...)

17Like Semyon An-sky’s, The Dybbuk, then, Mule Bone was grounded in Hurston’s ethnographic work. Their initial idea for the play, first broached in correspondence during the summer of 1926, had been to write a “high-toned folk opera”, but that notion was soon abandoned in favor of a comedy about black folk life based on an unpublished short story Hurston had written, “The Bone of Contention”11. The original short story turned on two hunters’ dispute over which of them had shot a turkey and the altercation that followed, but the play translated the conflict over the turkey into two friends’ competition for the affections of a woman. The situation escalates when one of the men attacks the other with the hockbone of a mule and is tried for assault before a jury made up of people from competing church denominations. The defense argues the assailant’s innocence on the grounds that no weapon was used in the attack, to which the plaintiff responds by invoking the Biblical story of Samson using the jawbone of an ass to defeat his enemies. The hock bone of a mule, he asserts triumphantly, is many times more lethal. The offending hunter is banished from the community, but the former friends meet later to continue their competition for the young woman’s affections by less violent means, a contest of verbal wordplay in which wit and rhyme win out. They eventually lose interest in winning the woman’s affections, however, as they realize that she is only interested in the financial support a husband can provide her and expects the lucky suitor to go to work for her white employers to earn it. The play ends with their abandoning her and reconciling as friends12.

  • 13  R. E. Hemenway, Zora Neale Hurston: A Literary Biography, Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 19 (...)

18Although the plot of Mule Bone is unimpressive, even a bit silly, Robert Hemenway, one of Hurston’s biographers, describes the play as “an interesting attempt to transcend black dramatic stereotypes”. Its effectiveness lay not in its mundane plot, he argues, but in its illustration of how the “oral-aural worldview” of traditional black life and culture contrasted with the written literacy privileged in white mainstream culture. Thus Mule Bone is “not a theatre of action but a theatre of the word”, as exemplified by the climactic courting scene that actually drew on authentic rural black rituals found in Hurston’s folklore collection. “The rhyming ability, the ingenious improvisation, and the general wit of black folk”, Hemenway argues, could be potent refutations of the prevailing notion that black folk were ignorant and inarticulate – “if done well”13.

  • 14  Rampersad, Langston Hughes, p. 184, 185, 196-197, 200-209.

19Whatever potential the fully developed play might have had, however, it was not “done well”. It would, in fact, have been difficult to distinguish the language and characters of the play from the minstrel stereotypes still current in the American theater and movies of the time. Perhaps this problem could have been remedied during an actual production, but the play was never produced. With the play almost completed, Hurston suddenly seemed to abandon the project, returning to the South with the vague promise of continuing work alone on one of the acts. A year later, during a visit with his mother in Cleveland, Hughes discovered that the play was being prepared for production by the Gilpin Players, an amateur theater group in Cleveland’s Karamu House. This seeming betrayal sparked a bitter fight over authorship of the play and a crucial turning point in the respective careers of both writers. Hughes left the U.S. for a long sojourn in the Caribbean, where he was lionized and immersed himself in yet another black world, while Hurston turned her attention to ethnographic projects in Jamaica and Haiti and a novel of southern life14. Their play received its first stage production in 1990, part of yet another black renaissance movement seeking cultural legitimation in the recreation of language and culture from a past long gone.

20Notwithstanding Hughes’s understandable anger at Hurston’s apparent theft of his work, hers was no doubt the predominating influence on the play. It reflected her distinctive take on “the folk” – a rural people anchored in a nostalgic past, a world even she recognized was rapidly being lost.


21An-sky and Hurston both confronted, then, a similar problem of translation: representing a dying past to the present. They sought to both make that past intelligible to the present and the future and to mark the spatial gap, the décalage, between rural, relatively isolated cultures and urban relatively integrated ones. Both also sought to be faithful to the material they had carefully gathered in the course of their fieldwork. But they each faced the challenge of translating that material from one context to another; accurately recorded speech when recited on stage and folk beliefs accurately rendered could seem to reproduce the most pernicious of racist and anti-Semitic stereotypes. Arguably, An-sky’s translation was more successful; his play had a long stage-life, reaching audiences across the globe, while Mule Bone was not performed during the lifetimes of its authors. Yet, the original double translation, cultural and linguistic – the translation of a hassidic tale into a Romeo and Juliet avant-garde melodrama, and a translation into the Russian from the Yiddish in which the story would actually have been lived – failed. An-sky, and arguably the Jewish Renaissance more broadly, was perhaps successful in producing a form of Jewish culture useful to Jews as they sought to make their way in modernity. He was not successful in making Jews modern.

22Hughes, by contrast, would go on to tackle a somewhat different and arguably more successful translation task. A serious student of the blues, Hughes boldly deploying its themes and linguistic idioms in his poems, effectively making the “blues aesthetic” available in a very different cultural genre. And he achieved this not by drawing on a fading past but by nurturing the life rhythms of a rapidly urbanizing present and anticipating the future of black culture. In Hughes’ translation project there is no evidence of aporia, no décalage, of time or space, but rather the smooth melding of one cultural genre with another, of different languages moving to the same beat.


1  Machiavel, Le Prince. Traduction et commentaire, J.-L. Fournel et J.-C. Zancarini, Paris, Presses universitaires de France, 2000, p. 34.

2  B. H. Edwards, The Practice of Diaspora: Literature, Translation, and the Rise of Black Internationalism, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 2003.

3  Although there is no evidence of direct influences between the Eastern European Jewish and African American renaissance movements, Jewish immigrants to American did play significant roles as publishers, editors, and artists in the Harlem Renaissance. It is also clear that African American intellectuals were well aware of European movements generally, especially the Irish and the Russian, and advocated their emulation by black American writers and dramatists. See G. Hutchinson, The Harlem Renaissance in Black and White, Cambridge Harvard UP, 1995, p. 197.

4  This brief biography is taken from G. Safran, “Timeline: Semyon Akimovich An-sky / Shloyme-Zanvl Rappoport”, and S. J. Zipperstein, “Introduction: An-sky and the Guises of Modern Jewish Culture”, in The Worlds of S. An-sky: A Russian Jewish Intellectual at the Turn of the Century, G. Safran and S. J. Zipperstein eds, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2006, p. xv-xxx and 1-30.

5  S. An-sky, The Dybbuk and Other Writings, ed. and with introduction by D. G. Roskies, trans. G. Werman, New Haven, Yale University Press, 2002 [1992].

6  S. L. Wolitz, “Inscribing An-sky’s Dybbuk in Russian and Jewish Letters”, in The Worlds of S. An-sky, p. 164-102 (p. 167).

7  A dybbuk, in the Jewish tradition, was a demon, the soul of a deceased person, who having committed a sin could not rest, instead roaming the earth in the body of an unrighteous person. Joachim Neugroschel emphasizes this in The Dybbuk and the Yiddish Imagination: A Haunted Reader, ed. and trans. from the Yiddish by J. Neugroschel, Syracuse, Syracuse University Press, 2000, p. xi-xii.

8  J. Neugroschel, p. xiii and letter from S. Ansky to Khaim Zhitlovsky, in Id., p. 1-2.

9  C. Manuel, “Mule Bone: Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston’s dream deferred of an African-American Theatre of the Black Word”, African American Review, 35, no. 1, Spring 2001, p. 77-92 (p. 80); and S. C. Tracy, Langston Hughes & the Blues, Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 1988.

10  G. Hutchinson, The Harlem Renaissance, p. 115, 157.

11  Ibid., p. 104; A. Rampersad, I, Too, Sing America. The Life of Langston Hughes, 2 vols, 2nd ed., New York, Oxford University Press, 2002, I, p. 184.

12  L. Hughes and Z. Neale Hurston, Mule Bone: A Comedy of Negro Life, G. H. Bass and H. L. Gates Jr., New York, HarperPerennial, 1991.

13  R. E. Hemenway, Zora Neale Hurston: A Literary Biography, Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 1977, p. 148, 153, 156.

14  Rampersad, Langston Hughes, p. 184, 185, 196-197, 200-209.

© ENS Éditions, 2015

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