Publication date:14 October 2019
Length of book:120 pages
PublisherPenn State University Press
One of the most important German poets of the nineteenth century, Heinrich Heine was a convert without conviction. He chose Christianity over Judaism as a means of securing an academic career, but when his conversion failed to yield the hoped-for job opportunities, he devoted himself to writing instead. This volume presents a new translation of Hebrew Melodies, the third cycle of poems in Heine’s late masterwork, Romanzero, which many critics have interpreted as Heine’s return to his Jewish roots.
As Elisheva Carlebach explains in her foreword, Heine’s “return to God” in his final years was motivated not by faith but by a deep admiration of the Jewish people—a sentiment that is clearly reflected in the poems that make up Hebrew Melodies. This edition presents the original German alongside new English translations by Stephen Mitchell, widely known for his ability to make old classics thrillingly new, and Jack Prelutsky, the author of more than fifty poetry collections for children and adults. Mark Podwal’s illustrations beautifully portray the joyous, playful elements of Jewish tradition and hint at what Carlebach calls the “menacing edges of history’s nightmares,” echoing Heine’s position as a poet “caught between worlds.”