Haym Grade (1910-1982)

One of the greatest "modern" Yiddish writers, Haym Grade lived an extremely harsh life. He grew up incredibly poor in the back of a blacksmith's shop in Vilna with a sick father and a mother who peddled apples for a living, Haym was taken under the wing of the Chasoneh at a Musir Yeshiva. He was being trained to be the Chasoneh's successor when he became dissatisfied and left at age 22.

Grade escaped Vilna when the Nazis came in, but not before losing both his mother and wife to them. He lived in a refugee camp in Russia until the war was over, returned to Vilna briefly, then went back to Russia and remarried there.

Pre-invasion Vilna is the centerpiece of many of Grade's writings. He paints an incredibly vivid picture of the life and culture there, immortalizing a world now completely destroyed. Grade's mother also figures prominently in his work, like Di Mame's Shabosi, where she becomes a symbol of suffering.

Although suffering is a recurring theme of Grade's, he still protrays the Jews as fighters. His stories, however, actively criticize the stubborness of the ultra-religious and the infighting among Jewish thinkers. Perhaps the best example of this Di Aguna, a story about an argument between Rabbis where the obstinance of the older one causes great suffering to both a woman whose husband has vanished, and the younger Rabbi who defends her right to remarry.

Grade never had any children, and was described by many to be an angry and bitter man. Still, he is unquestionably one of the most respected figures in Yiddish Literature, to such an extent that protests rose up when Isaac Beshevitz-Singer and not Grade won the Nobel Prize in 1978.