PERETZ, ISAAC LÖB:
Writer in Yiddish and Hebrew; born at Samoscz, government of Lublin, May 25, 1851. In the Hebrew school in which he received his early education he so distinguished himself in his Hebrew studies that he was denominated an "iluy." On completing his education in Hebrew Peretz turned his attention to secular studies; with them he entered upon a period of "enlightenment." He criticized Jewish customs, occasionally wrote poems in Yiddish or Hebrew, and was reputed a "maskil." To this period belong his poems "Ḥaluḳat ha-Ḥokmot" (published in "Ha-Shaḥar," 1876, p. 192, a journal that supported the Haskalah movement) and "Sippurim be-Shir we-Shirim Shonim" (in conjunction with G. J. Lichtenfeld, Warsaw, 1877). After this Peretz produced nothing further until 1886, when his poems "Manginot ha-Zeman" and "Ha-'Ir ha-Ḳeṭannah" appeared in "Ha-Asif." In the latter poems an advance over his previous productions was apparent. At this time Peretz was living in his native town, practising as an attorney at law. Probably as the result of government restrictions, he was soon compelled to abandon thepractise of law and seek a livelihood elsewhere. In Warsaw he secured a position as clerk in the offices of the Jewish congregation, and since then has devoted himself to literature.
Peretz tells the story of the common people in their own dialect, and with simplicity and force. He is chiefly distinguished, however, for his keen insight into the psychological constitution of his heroes. He is not a realist in the full sense of the term; he does not merely depict life as it is; he takes up the cause of his heroes and pleads it for them. This characteristic gives to the writings of Peretz a note of "Tendenz." Yet, though fighting in this manner against both the constitution of the ghetto and the social order (for this Peretz has already been imprisoned once by the government), he sees not only the dark side of the things against which he fights, but their bright side also. This trait he displays particularly in his Ḥasidic sketches, in which, with an inclination to the fantastic and with his powerful imagination, he masterfully reveals the whole inner world of Ḥasidic life. There is also an element of symbolism in the writings of Peretz, particularly in his poems. These, however, are not the best of his productions.
The collected writings of Peretz have been published, in Hebrew ("Kol Kitbe Pereẓ," Warsaw, 1899), in Yiddish, on the fiftieth anniversary of his birth ("Schriften," ib. 1901), and in Russian (St. Petersburg, 1902-3); they have appeared also in several other European languages. "Ha-'Ugab," poems, was published in 1896.
- Klausner, in Ha-Shiloaḥ, vii. 540-547;
- idem, in Sefer ha-Shanah, iii. 234-239;
- idem, in Ha-Eshkol, i. 54-71;
- idem, in the Preface to his Kol Kitbe Pereẓ, 1900-1;
- Zagorodsky, in Luaḥ Aḥiasaf, ix. 356-360.