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The Schmooze

Dispute Settled Over Yiddish Literary Trove

The dispute over the papers of the late Yiddish writer Chaim Grade has been settled in favor of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research and the National Library of Israel, according to a recent press release. The two organizations have also gained control over copyright to Grade’s published work.

Grade was one of the most highly regarded postwar Yiddish writers. His oeuvre includes novels such as “The Yeshiva“ and “The Agunah,” as well as the novelistic memoir “My Mother’s Sabbath Days.” He was also the author much untranslated poetry and several novels that were serialized in the Yiddish press but have never appeared in book form.

The collection was recovered from the writer’s home by the Bronx Public Administrator after the death of Grade’s wife, Inna Hecker Grade, in 2010. It includes 40 boxes of letters, photographs and manuscripts, as well as Grade’s 20,000-volume library.

According to YIVO Executive Director Jonathan Brent, YIVO and the National Library of Israel made identical bids to the Bronx Public Administrator and decided to combine forces. Other institutions that were invited to bid included Harvard University, the New York Public Library and the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

“We will now begin as quickly as we can to sort through the materials,” Brent told the Forward. “The contents of Grade’s apartment were simply put into boxes with no attention paid to themes or subjects or kinds of materials. So it’s going to be a fairly painstaking process.”

While YIVO will retain physical possession of the collection, both institutions will share responsibility for translation, publication and digitization of the material, and they anticipate raising money toward that end. They will also attempt to raise funds for a $150,000 fellowship for a scholar to organize the material and to write a book about Grade and his world. After it has been organized the entire collection will be digitized as part of the agreement.

Since Grade’s death in 1982, his widow restricted publishers’ and scholars’ access to his work. Now YIVO and the National Library of Israel intend to make it available to both Yiddish and English-reading audiences.

“We are going to begin as quickly as possible to put all of Chaim Grade’s work back in print, and if necessary, in new translations,” Brent said. “Making his works in Yiddish available for the Yiddish speaking world is a prime concern and goal.”

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