Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian Fiction, Yiddish Literature, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality historical novels are some of my Literary Interests

Saturday, December 14, 2013

"The Magician" by I. L. Peretz - 1904. From The Yale Yiddish Library

"The Magician" is a story replicated in many cultures.  The story of the seemingly impoverished stranger with very unexpected seemingly magic powers who helps the poor.  As "The Magician" opens a magician has arrived in town and is putting on shows. He seems very impoverished, his clothes are threadbare and his shoes look decades old. In his shows he can seemingly pull things out of thin air and he can make rubles appear in the mud on his shoes.   Of course everyone asks why is he in rags if he can make rubles appear?  Who really is he?

It is near the Passover Holiday, a time of feasting. The central family in the story are going through very hard times, the wife is ashamed she cannot put on a meal.  The husband refuses to allow her to ask for help from neighbors.   It is the tradition on Passover that anyone in need can stop at a house and join the meal.   The mysterious magician asks to dine with them.  The husband invites him in to share what little food they have, telling not to expect much.  The magician tells them not to worry.

The husband is concerned this may be black magic so he goes to his Rabbi for counsel.  He is told that if the food has substance it is real.  It does and they enjoy the wonderful feast, knowing they have been blessed by a visit from the Prophet Elijah.   Elijah always came disguised as a pauper. 

"The Magician" is a very enjoyable story that also can help us learn traditional ways of a largely lost culture.

My thanks to Yale University Press for a very generous gift of books.  There is background information on Peretz in my prior posts on his work.  

Mel u

No comments: