An-Ski, S.

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AN-SKI, S. (pseudonym of Shloyme-Zanvl Rappoport ; 1863–1920), author and folklorist. An-Ski was born in Tshashnik, Belorussia, where his father was a landowner's agent and his mother an innkeeper. An-Ski attended a traditional Jewishheder. In 1878, at the age of 16, he became a close friend of Chaim *Zhitlowsky and soon discovered Hebrew and Russian literature. Attracted by the doctrines of the Haskalah, and the Narodniki (a group committed to revolutionizing the Russian peasants), he went to live among Russian peasants and miners, and worked as a blacksmith, bookbinder, factory hand, and teacher. On the advice of the Russian writer Gleb Uspensky, he returned from south Russia to St. Petersburg and wrote for the Narodniki's monthly publication. Compelled to leave Russia in 1892, he stayed briefly in Germany and Switzerland before settling in Paris in 1894. There he worked for six years as secretary of the revolutionary and philosopher Piotr Lavrov, while writing short stories about Jewish radicals. Returning to Russia in 1905, he joined the Social-Revolutionary Party, circulated his 1902 *Bund hymn "Di Shvue" ("The Oath"), and wrote folk legends and stories about Jewish poverty. Until 1908 An-Ski wrote chiefly in Russian, switching to Yiddish after meeting Peretz. An-Ski brought to Yiddish literature a deep appreciation of Jewish folk values. As head of the Jewish ethnographic expedition financed by Baron Gunzberg he traveled through the villages of Volhynia and Podolia from 1912 to 1914, collecting material. His knowledge of folklore inspired his famous play The *Dybbuk (written and reworked by An-Ski between 1912 and 1917 in both Russian and Yiddish, the latter originally called Tsvishn Tsvey Veltn), which was first produced in Yiddish by the Vilna troupe (1920), and then, in the Hebrew translation of Bialik, by the Habimah company in Moscow, Tel Aviv, and New York. Bialik translated The Dybbuk into Hebrew in Ha-Tekufah, vol. 1 (1918). An-Ski subsequently lost the Yiddish original en route from Russia to Vilna and thus revised and retranslated it into Yiddish from Bialik's Hebrew version. This latter version was the one performed by the Vilna Theater group. Productions in numerous languages followed; the Italian composer L. Rocca based an opera on the play; musical versions by Renato Simoni and David Temkin appeared in New York, and movie versions in Poland (1938) and Israel (1968). Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tony *Kushner rewrote The Dybbuk in 1998. The play is An-Ski's masterpiece, combining folkloristic aspects with universal themes of love, suffering, and the search for an authentic self. During World War i, An-Ski devoted himself to organizing relief committees for Jewish war victims. He would later recount his experiences during the war in his extraordinary chronicle Khurbn Galitsye ("The Destruction of Galicia"). In 1917 he was elected to the All-Russian Constituent Assembly as a Social-Revolutionary deputy and in 1918 he helped to reorganize the Vilna community. In 1920, when the Polish legion took over Vilna and began attacking the Jewish population, An-ski reluctantly moved to Warsaw, where he founded a Jewish ethnographic society. He died soon thereafter and was buried in the Warsaw Jewish cemetery next to Peretz.


Sh. An-Ski, The Dybbuk (19261, 19372, 19533); Rejzen, Leksikon, 1 (1926), 125–41; lynl, 1 (1956), 131–4; Bibliography by E.H. Jeshurin, in: Ilustrirte Yom-Tov Bleter (Winter, 1951), 38–41, 52; Rozenhak, in: Karmelit, 9 (1963). add. bibliography: Dos Yidishe Etnografishe Program; Oysgabe fun der Yidisher Etnografisher Ekspeditsye inem Nomen fun dem Baron Herts Guntsberg (1914); Sh. An-Ski, Gezamlte Shriftn in Fuftsn Bend (1920–28); D. Roskies (ed.), The Dybbuk and Other Writings by S. Ansky (2002).

[Yitzhak Maor /

Leah Garrett (2nd ed.)]