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On Foreign Soil: Tales of a Wandering Jew
"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
Read the absorbing new psychological suspense thriller from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Marisha Pessl. Learn more
In 1945, Falk ZOlf, a Jewish teacher in the I.L. PeretzShul in Winnipeg, published a moving semi-autobiographical novel in Yiddish called Auf Fremder Erd. In a series of 132 vignettes, he vividly described elements of his life from his childhood in Zastavieh until his emigration to Canada. Born in 1898, he offers us a glimpse of a generation whose youth predated the Holocaust, and was compelled to grapple with the forces unleashed during World War I, be they military, ideological, or psychological. Zolf's experiences are extremely diverse: a student at the Slobodker Yeshivah, a "draft-dodger" from the Czar's Army, a soldier in the Communist Russian Army, a Poale Tsion activist, a prisoner in a POW camp in East Prussia, and a familiy man in Zastavia, to name a few. His many wanderings in both the Pale of Settlement and Russian heartland give the reader a picture of the diversity of Jewish communities at the time. Zolf also addresses how the -isms and schisms of his day played out in this life: religious observance, secularization, and platforms of Jewish political movements, communism etc. Martin Green translated this book largely into English but with a twist - it is intended for the English speaker to learn Yiddish. The book starts off in English with about 10-20% Yiddish words (romanized), which increases gradually until the last chapte is entirely in Yiddish. Words introduced for the first time are translated unless the meaning is clear from the context. There is also a summary of each chapter, in English, and aglossary. A companion we site, www.onforeignsoil.com, offers voice clips of 23 excerpts and other resources. Recommended strongly for school and synagogue libraries as well as libraries that collect Yiddish language educational mateials. --Leah Cohen, Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter
About the Author
Translator Marty Green is a multi-talented interpreter of Yiddish culture whose other works include "A Boy Named Sureh", a collection of Yiddish song translations from artists as diverse as Shel Silverstein, Kristofferson, Aznavour, Paul Anka, and Goethe; and an original version of I. L. Peretz's classic "Ballad of Monish", set to music for combined Yiddish and English voices. He is presently working with illustrator Karen Schulz on an illustrated picture book version of Peretz's classic Yiddish poem "Solomon's Throne",
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Of particular importance to contemporary readers are his portrayal of the Slobodka yeshiva and its spiritual director the so called Alter of Slobodka Rabbi Noson Zvi Finkel.A particular important character in the book is the then rav of Rakow, rav Abraham kalmanowitz who shows communal leadership even as a young small town rabbi. Of course he was to become a key player in the Vaad hatzolah in the U.S. during World war 2.
Zolf also is a bit player in the Russian revolution and paints a wondeful portrayal of the first World War and its affect on east Europe's Jewish population. The hunger poverty and destruction described is unbelievable.
Mr. Green's translation is also unique. rather than translating the book , parts of the book are kept in Yiddish but transliterated. This may be a way for the novice to learn some Yiddish, but makes the book very difficult to read and cumbersome.
Nevertheless the book is worth the difficult navigational process, as it contains many gems in both fact and in its rich and idiomatic white Russian Yiddish sprinkled with more than a tad of Russian words including some wonderful curses.
I have not read Kotik's memoirs so I can not compare the two volumes, but by itself this is a worthy account of the suffering of the Jews in 20th century eastern Europe