Shapiro, (Levi Joshua) Lamed
SHAPIRO, (Levi Joshua) LAMED
SHAPIRO, (Levi Joshua) LAMED (1878–1948), Yiddish writer. Born in Rzhishchev (near Kiev), Shapiro, his early writings in hand, went to "conquer Warsaw" in 1896, but returned home two years later and supported himself by tutoring. In 1903, again in Warsaw, he published several short stories in local Yiddish periodicals and then began a period of wandering which continued to the very end of his life: to America in 1905, where he contributed stories to Di Tsukunft and reported briefly for the Forverts; in Warsaw again in 1909, he joined the staff of the daily, Der Fraynt, and translated from European literature. In 1910 he published his first collection, Noveln ("Stories"). In spite of financial and geographic instability, the decade 1908–18 was the most prolific of his career: he published his most notorious pogrom story, "Der Tseylem" ("The Cross"), and a number of other works which were later collected in Di Yidishe Melukhe ("The Jewish State," 1919). He began to drink heavily, however, suffered frequent depressions, and wrote ever more sporadically. Hopes of perfecting an invention of color cinematography took Shapiro to Los Angeles in 1921, but he returned to New York after his beloved wife Freydl's death in 1927. In 1931 he published a new story collection, Nyu-yorkish, focusing on the confusing life of immigrant Jewish men. A series of further literary projects, including the attempt to edit his magazine, Studio (1933), were unsuccessful. After a brief period of working for the Federal Writers Project of the wpa in 1937–38, Shapiro returned for the last time to Los Angeles. In 1945 he published a series of essays on literary themes entitled Der Shrayber Geyt in Kheyder ("The Writer Goes to School"). In 1948 he died from the effects of alchoholism. Shapiro's chaotic, restless life stands in sharpest contrast to his carefully controlled, tightly structured, and polished stories. Although many of his works explore violence and human conflict, particularly the wild frenzy of pogroms, the highly visual form of his narration and compression of detail produce a static or classical effect. Shapiro is often called "The master craftsman of the Yiddish short story."
L. Shapiro, Ksovim (1949), 19–33 (biographical notes by Sh. Miller); Rejzen, Leksikon, 4 (1929), 465–9; J. Glatstein, In Tokh Genumen (1956), 82–91. add. bibliography: L. Garrett (ed. and trans.), The Cross and Other Jewish Stories by Lamed Shapiro (2006).
[Ruth Wisse /
Leah Garrett (2nd ed.)]