Yankl the Blacksmith

Translated from Yankl der shmid (1906) by David Pinski.

A psychological domestic drama that “feels” modern, not only in its language and construction, but also in its concerns with class, marriage, and the status of women. Yankl, a handsome, womanizing, inarticulate blacksmith, with depths he is dimly aware of but cannot develop, falls in love with the sensitive and well-bred Tamara, and marries her. He resolves to transform himself into a faithful husband and upstanding citizen, but the couple rent a room to Rivke, a passionate woman who has left her husband. This endangers their own marriage, as their honest, affectionate conversation becomes constricted into oblique fencing and denial.  Yankl is almost seduced in the heat of the forge but, in the end, after a confrontation between the two women, the attachment between Tamara and Yankl triumphs. Yankl has won a personal, moral battle; for him and Tamara, there is a happy ending. But not for Rivke, whose bitter imprisonment in marriage provides a dark context of the relationships between men and women in that time and place.

David Pinski, author and critic, was the “grand old man” of Yiddish letters. For many years he was the President of the Yiddish writers’ section of PEN International. Pinski was famed for his psychological explorations of character, especially in relation to sex.  A film version entitled The Singing Blacksmith (1938), transformed into a musical comedy, is still screened rather often.

The translation was subsidized by a National Endowment for the Arts Literary Fellowship.

Script and permissions are available from Nahma Sandrow.