Words on Fire

Words on Fire

The Unfinished Story of Yiddish

By Dovid Katz

Basic Books, Hardcover, 9780465037285, 448pp.

Publication Date: October 1, 2004

"Words on Fire" offers a rich, engaging account of the history and evolution of the Yiddish language. Drawing on almost thirty years of scholarship, prominent Yiddish scholar Dovid Katz traces the origins of Yiddish back to the Europe of a thousand years ago, and shows how those origins are themselves an uninterrupted continuation of the previous three millennia of Jewish history and culture in the Near East. "Words on Fire" narrates the history of the language from medieval times onward, through its development as written literature, particularly for and by Jewish women. In the wake of secularizing and modernizing movements of the nineteenth century, Yiddish rose spectacularly in a few short years from a mass folk idiom to the language of sophisticated modern literature, theater, and journalism. Although a secular Yiddish culture no longer exists, Katz argues that its resurgence among religious Jewish communities ensures that Yiddish will still be a thriving language in the twenty-first century. For anyone interested in Jewish history and tradition, "Words on Fire" will be a definitive account of this remarkable language and the culture that created and sustained it.

About the Author

Dovid Katzis one of the world's foremost academics in the field of Yiddish studies. He has a B.A. from Columbia and a Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of London. He taught at Oxford for 18 years, where he established the University's Yiddish program, as well as at Yale. He is currently at Vilnius University, as research director for the new Vilnius Yiddish Institute, and was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2002.