Hannah was self-taught, read widely and familiar with modern Yiddish writers. She was a regular at the National Library in Kildare St. and contributed articles and stories to newspapers and magazines on both sides of the Atlantic. Her historical accounts of life for the early emigrants to Dublin based on her childhood memories are unique and poignant.
Her novel “Melutovna” (1913) brought her recognition as one of the more promising Anglo-Jewish writers. This novel is set in Tzarist Russia and depicts everyday Shtetl family life. Her numerous stories are immersed in Yiddishkeit and her novel Ant Hills (1926) concerns the life of a peddler in Lithuania. Although she writes about the experience of the newly arrived in some of her stories, she does not set her stories in Ireland although she stated she based some of the characters on her fellow Jewish Dubliners. She saw her work as “an attempt to create Yiddish folk-writing in English”.
In addition to her own writing, she was the authorised translator from 1911 for the works of Sholem Aleichim. Beginning with the translation of Aleichim’s novel Stempenyu (1913), she went on to translate a considerable body of his work introducing him to an English-speaking audience. She drew comparisons with the revival of Yiddish and the Irish literary revival. She moved to London
in 1914 where she remained until her death.
Remarkably, considering the achievements of this Irish Jewish writer who played an important role in bringing the Yiddish world to light in the early years of the twentieth century, little is known. New focus on her work is being brought to attention by scholars including Barry Montgomery who writes Hannah Berman was a “key, if a largely forgotten player in Irish Jewish
literature” and argues for “her recovery as a significant contributor to early twentieth century Irish literature and culture”.(Studies in Irish Literature, Cinema and Culture, Irish Women Writers at the Turn of the 20th Century ed Laing and Mooney).
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