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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic!, January 3, 2010
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This review is from: Tevye the Dairyman and The Railroad Stories (Library of Yiddish Classics) (Paperback)
Titling this review "A Classic!" immediately brought to mind Mark Twain's comment: "Classic. A book everybody praises but nobody reads." Often true ... but that would be a sad mistake in this case. This is great, highly enjoyable reading!

Having been reading some very good literature that either (inevitably) ended in the Holocaust or was informed by the Holocaust, I commented to an acquaintance that I wished I could find some Jewish literature that was uninformed by the Holocaust. He shook his head and began, "Well, ..." and I said, "I mean, I wish there was a 19th Century Eastern European Jewish equivalent to Mark Twain!" His face lit up and he said, "There is! Sholem Aleichem!"

The first book I got at amazon was "Classic Yiddish Stories of S.Y. Abramovitsh, Sholem Aleichem, and I.L. Peretz (Judaic Traditions in Literature, Music, and Art)" Very good! It led me to this book.

The 8 Tevye stories, collected as "Tevye the Dairyman" are the masterwork of this collection, richly bringing to life a world that was even then disappearing. the characters become flesh and blood in these monologues delivered by Tevye to Sholem Aleichem. Tears through laughter. Laughter through tears. Their lives were " ... not exactly strewn with roses ... " even then.

The 20 Railroad Stories are a highly enjoyable -though lesser- opus by this perceptive author. The connection -very loose here- is that they are stories observed by, or told to, a commercial traveler riding in the 3rd class railroad cars.

The 33 page introduction is excellent. I might recommend reading it afterwards, though, as there are one or two spoilers in the discussion.

There's also a 25 page glossary at the end of the book, primarily translations of the Hebrew quotations if one wants to dig deeper, but it's not necessary to enjoy the stories. Aleichem wrote with the knowledge that many of his readership read Yiddish but -like me- didn't know Hebrew.

Highly recommended.

"No matter how bad things get you got to go on living, even if it kills you." -Sholem Aleichem
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