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

Thursday, December 5, 2013

"The Story of the Noble Man's Mustaches" by Itzak Manger The Yale Yiddish Library Project

Itzak Manger is one of the acknowledged masters of Yiddish literature.  (There is some background information on Manger in my prior post on him.)   He came up with a brilliant idea.  He wanted to write a collection of ten short stories modeled on Boccaccio's Decameron.  It was to be set in an underground bunker in Nazi Europe in which Jews from ten different areas were hiding from certain death in the concentration camps. Each of the ten was to help pass the time by telling a story depicting his culture.  Sadly he only completed two stories but happily Yale has included both of them in its wonderful anthology of his work.  

"The Noble Man's Mustaches" reads very much like an old folk tale of the cruelty of the Polish nobility toward Jews.  The story centers on a Jewish barber and a viviously anti-Semitic Polish noble whose greatest pride is his grand mustache.  The barber has a dominating abusive wife.  He takes a lot of pleasure in her annual child births and the great pain this brings her.  The nobleman sends for the barber to trim his hair prior to a wedding feast. The nobleman may have murdered his wife.  The barber accidentally cuts of a large part of the man's mustache.  The nobleman yells out "give that filthy Jew 150 lashes".  When he dies from this the nobleman says "that will teach the Jews their place".  The barber's widow, left with no support and many children, place a curse on the nobleman man's mustache.  The ending could be straight out of a collection of old folk tales.  I liked this a lot.  

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