Ill-timed to coincide with what all accounts seem to be describing as a dog of a commercial movie, this children’s classic has been released in a Yiddish version. Naomi Kadar has great fun wittily deconstructing and reviewing the volume in the Mendele Review, Vol. 7, No. 10.
Where an adult might see an excursion into the machinations of the ego struggling against the superego, the child is titillated in to enjoying the energetic emotional tug-of-war between the self-centered Cat and the fearful fish…. The significance of Di kats der payats goes beyond the parameters of translation of a story for children, and suggests an underlying subtext. Usually translations function as a key to allow one culture to partake of the literary treasures of another. Today’s “post-vernacular” Yiddish culture, (Shandler, 2002) reverses that assumption. We can safely presume that, at least for American adult readers, the enthusiasm to read Di kats der payats does not stem from a need to understand the contents of the tale, but rather from the desire to (re)capture something ineffable and lost, and to infuse it into our present. The instantaneous reversion to the carefree fun of childhood expressed in an animated, lively Yiddish tickles our fancy.
I might also add that the typography, while not exciting, is very apt. Although some might complain that it is over-exposed and bland (myself among them), Frank-Ruehl is readable, common, and retains some of the Art Deco grace which inspired its design. Plus, it is easy and familiar for kids (or adults) to read.
For more on Mendele: Forum for Yiddish Literature and Yiddish Language, visit their home page.
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