Nadir, Moyshe

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NADIR, MOYSHE (pseudonym of Isaac Reis ; 1885–1943), Yiddish poet and humorist. Born in eastern Galicia, Nadir emigrated to New York at the age of 13 and at 16 began to write lyrics in which he emphasized the hardships of the immigrant generation. His later lyrics were more skeptical and often bitingly satirical. In addition to poetry, Nadir published feuilletons, essays, short stories, plays, and criticism in dozens of different Yiddish periodicals and anthologies, as well as dozens of his own books. He tried to mask his sentimentalism in biting irony, which increased as he found life increasingly meaningless, and sought escape from nihilistic moodiness in jesting. He said: "When God had nothing to do, He created a world. When I have nothing to do, I destroy it." He coedited the humorous biweekly Der Yidisher Gazlen and was a frequent contributor to Der Groyser Kundes, the most widely read Yiddish humorous periodical of his time. He participated in the literary projects of Di *Yunge and aroused interest with his volume of erotic lyrics Vilde Royzn ("Wild Roses," 1915). His popular poem "Rivington Strit" ("Rivington Street," 1936), published with the illustrations of Yosl Cutler and William Gropper, was transformed into a performance piece. Delighting readers with his paradoxes and wit, his writings served, at the same time, as a means through which he vented his anger at the world. His plays, poems, and essays were intended to shock respectable society. The fantastic is a thread often running through his stories. His major contribution to Yiddish literature, however, was his imaginative use of the language, demonstrating through his puns and coinages the plasticity of Yiddish. Active in communist circles, he was hailed by adoring Jewish crowds during a 1926 visit to the Soviet Union, and in his articles in the communist Jewish daily, Frayhayt (1922–39), he attacked opponents of the Communist Party line. However, severe disillusionment came with the Stalin-Hitler pact of 1939, and his collection of poetry Moyde Ani ("I Confess"), written in 1941 and published posthumously in 1944, includes an autobiographical section in which he repudiated his former beliefs (English transl. in I. Howe and E. Greenberg, A Treasury of Yiddish Stories, 1953).


I.C. Biletzky, Essays on Yiddish Poetry and Prose Writers (1969), 129–36; Rejzen, Leksikon, 2 (1927), 500–13; lnyl, 6 (1965), 126–33; S. Leshchinsky, Literarishe Eseyen (1955), 126–36; S.D. Singer, Dikhter un Prozaiker (1959), 57–66; I. Manger, Noente Geshtaltn (1961), 448–55; A. Tabachnik, Dikhter un Dikhtung (1965), 268–374; S. Liptzin, Maturing of Yiddish Literature (1970), 34–6.

[Sol Liptzin /

Edward Portnoy (2nd ed.)]