Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian Fiction are some of my Literary Interests





Sunday, September 21, 2014

"The Tavern" by S. Ansky -1886

A ultra-realistic story by the author of The Dybbuk




One of the things my blog is about is giving what voice I can to the lost, the forgotten, those with no one to speak for them.  

My post on The Dybbuk - contains background information on S. Ansky


S. Ansky (1863 to 1920, Russia) is of great cultural and literary interest.  His life was a fascinating patchwork.  David Roskies does a wonderful job of explaining his great importance and the tumult within his psyche.  I have previously posted on his classic drama, The Dybbuk and one of his short stories, "Go Tell it to a Goy".  His work is now a subject of heavy scholarly interest as perhaps our best window into Jewish life in late Czarist Russia.   

"The Tavern" gives us a hyper-realistic darker than Zola look at a day in the life in a tavern in a small town in late Czarist Russia. This is not your Fiddler on the Roof type place.   The tavern, run by two Jewish women, it was considered not fit work for a man, caters to the everyday people of the mixed Gentile and Jewish community.  It is a place where people come to drink very cheap vodka until they are totally drunk, make business deals, get some food, socialize, and act like a big deal in front of everyone else.  The owners quickly size up all the patrons.  A man drinking alone is probably a wife beater, an old begger woman selling some linen is probably a fence and a woman alone in the tavern is seen as either a prostitute or as waiting for her husband to come in so she can castigate him as a drunken bum.  The patrons abuse the owners verbally, drink and eat on credit and use the bar as a second home.  When a petty Czarist inspector comes in the owners suck up to him and when he leaves they curse him.  We see a son and mother at a secluded table, the son trying to console his mother for the beating his father last gave her.  Political meetings sometimes go on in the back room.  

I know this sounds grim but it really made me feel I was there and it was just a lot of fun to read this superbly done story.  There is drama and it was fun to see the patrons come and go.  

Ansky spent a lot of time in Paris and I can see, or maybe imagine, the influence of Balzac on him.  

There are several more short stories in The Dybbuk and other Writings and I look forward to reading them.

I was kindly given the full Yale Yiddish Library by the publisher.


Reading these books has opened up a new reading world for me.  Many of the original readers,and their descendants,of these works, along with the books,  were burned by the Nazis.  

Mel u

1 comment:

Suko said...

This short story does sound like it would be interesting and fun to read. I have not read much (any?) Yiddish literature.