Discovered this volume of translated Yiddish stories quite by chance or more likely by "serendipity" as Dr. Carl Gustav Jung would say. My reading interests lean toward understanding different cultures, religious beliefs and customs. This book covers all these topics This book contains the writing of three famous authors, S.Y. Abramovitsh, called "the grandfather of modern Yiddish literature", Sholem Aleichem, considered "grandson" to the master who adds a comedic twist to his stories, and I.L. Peretz who according to the introduction founded modern Yiddish modernism. I knew I was in for a delicious treat as I read the first page of the first story ...
"The Little Man: or Portait of a Life" begins with Mendele the Book Peddler introducing himself and his trade ... how as he travels from place to place he learns about human behavior as he indulges his curiousity in observing and commenting about people. The reader is tickled by the translation as Mendele shares his deep insights about human nature, with a wonderful Yiddish accent. He sums up part of his philosophy as follows, "Believe me, all the world is a marketplace. Everyone wants the other guy to lose so he could gain. Everyone is looking for bargains. ... Rich people always seem a little lost and worried. If you've got money, what's to worry about? Seems to me that you don't need any fancy ideas about money. But I am getting off the point". [p.5] Needless to say, it is a highly educational experience to learn how Mendele concludes what characteristics describe "the little man". Indeed, his views apply to modern man in the 21st century!!
The second story, "Fishke, the Lame: A Story of Poor Jewish Folks" is another brilliantly written story . The reader is provided a description of an afternoon on the 17th of Tammuz in the heat of the summer ... you can just see the flies buzzing and feel the humidity and sweltering heat, no breeze, no relief of a rain shower in sight. At the foot of the Green Mountain, children are dancing and singing, as people greet the Reb, his only response is "Bah!" In this unique story, the reader is introduced to the concept, even the lame and crippled are G-d's children and, as such, entitled to some happiness and earthly pleasures. We are provided glimpses of life lived in the late 1860s. At the time, Fishke, the Lame was matched to marry "the blind orphan girl". Fishke had often been over-looked in the past from this time-honored tradition of matching up cripples, scoundrels, and beggars with unmarried girls. This usually occured during epidemics and conscriptions, in hopes of ending the events in question. Unexpectedly, this story provides greater insight into the behavior of one of the more prominent upright citizens of the community rather than the lame and crippled.
Sholem Aleichem's story "Hodel" provides a marvellous description of how one of the dairy farmer's beautiful daughters gets married to a student, whose subject of study is secretive. Hodel suddenly gets an interest in reading books and grammar after the student becomes a guest boarder in the Tevye's home ... The conversations and colloquial speech are rendered so effectively this story is a pleasure to read. All the stories are superbly written! This book provides the modern reader an outstanding cast of colorful and memorable characters who live an almost mythical existence during one the most unique times in history. Receives my highest recommendations. Erika Borsos (erikab93)
on May 6, 2004
Compiled and edited by Ken Frieden (B. G. Rudolph Chair in Judaic Studies at Syracuse University) Classic Yiddish Stories Of S. Y. Abramovitsch, Sholem Aleichem, And I. L. Peretz is a collection of the best short works by three influential nineteenth-century Jewish authors. Opening with Abramovitsch's novellas "The Little Man" and "Fishke the Lame", Classic Yiddish Stories goes on to present Aleichem's classic tales of the gregarious Tevye who struggled to raise strong-willed daughters, to Peretz's neo-hasidic tales immersed in hasidic traditions. An enduring anthology of classical works that reflect Yiddish daily life and culture with breathtaking clarity and pathos, Classic Yiddish Stories is ably and collaboratively translated into English by Ken Frieden, Tod Gorelick, and Michael Wex.
on December 6, 2013
The stories are so great that I also bought it for my kindle so I didn't have to carry the book around - I'm glad that I have the book, because it's the type of book I want to see on my book shelf. Not just to how it off, but because seeing it makes me want to pick it up again!
Then, I bought the book again for my niece that's how much I liked it!
on March 12, 2012
I bought the book in hopes of reading Yiddish authors I have not read before, such as S.Y. Abramovitsh. What I found is essentially unreadable text, with writers being so similar in poor style, that it is hard to imagine that all stories were not written by the same person. For comparison, read Tevye the Dairyman and Railroad Stories in Hillel Halkin's translation. That is, indeed, a fine literature