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A Note on ‘The Encounter’

An introduction to Mendel Mann, author of The Encounter, and the story’s translator, Heather Valencia

The Scroll
January 21, 2019
The Encounter,
The Encounter,
The Encounter,
The Encounter,

A note on the author and translator of the short story The Encounter, published today in Tablet.

After fleeing east from Poland to Russia in 1938 and serving in the Red Army for the duration of World War II, the Yiddish writer Mendel Mann eventually made his way to the newly founded state of Israel in 1948. He lived there—a productive writer in the small and beleaguered world of Yiddish literature—until 1961, when he chose to move to Paris to work for the Yiddish newspaper Undzer Vort (Our Word). Mann remained in Paris until his death in 1975. The following story comes from his 1966 collection Seeds in the Desert, which has been translated into English for the first time by Heather Valencia and will be available in February in an edition published by the Yiddish Book Center. Mann’s characters are fighting to build new lives and new identities for themselves in Israel. Their chief opponents in this struggle are most often the memories not only of what they have survived, but what they had to do to survive. These stories poignantly question how trauma informs identity; asking how traumatic experiences can or cannot be reconciled with efforts to start again, and if it is possible to reclaim the identity and the traditions that came before. Seeds in the Desert is the first work to be published as part of the Yiddish Book Center’s new publishing initiative. You can read more here.

Translator bio:
Heather Valencia was a lecturer in German language and literature at the University of Stirling, Scotland. She has taught at Yiddish summer programs and teaches a Yiddish class in Edinburgh.

Author bio:
Mendel Mann (1916-1975) was born in Płońsk, Poland. When World War II broke out, Mann fled to the Chuvash Soviet Socialist Republic, where he worked as a teacher before enlisting in the Red Army. The family emigrated to Israel in 1948. Mann’s final homeland was France: In 1961 he moved to Paris to work for the Yiddish newspaper Undzer Vort (Our Word). He died suddenly at age 59. His son Zvi still lives in Israel.

Tablet’s afternoon newsletter edited by Jacob Siegel and Park MacDougald.