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





Friday, October 19, 2018

“Where is Chandernagore” - A Short Story by Janet H Swinney - 2018




You can read “Where is Chandernagore” here

Janet H Swinney on The Reading Life

Website of Janet H Swinney

“Where is Chandernagore” is the fifth story by Janet H Swinney to be featured on The Reading Life.  I find her stories a consistent delight, elegantly developed with very credible characters in interesting situations.  She skillfully makes use of small details to draw us into her stories.  Following a contemporary short story writers work closely is my strongest form of endorsement, which I give to Janet H  Swinney without the slightest qualification.



The four prior featured by Swinney stories were all set on The Indian Subcontinent.  “Where is Chandernagore” is set in London.  The locale is a newspaper editorial office.  Here is how Mr Peabody, the paper’s owner and editor describes it:
.

“There were other publications with far larger circulations in the city. They had reporters to send hither and yon. ‘Let them focus on the big news,’ Mr. Peabody said. ‘At the Examiner, we deal with the significant detail, the family, the community.’ “

There are two women employed in the editorial office.  One is given assignments to cover murder trials and such, the other does recipes and housekeeping articles.  The women want to cover a big rally where Churchill will be confronting advocates for the vote for women. The time is not spelled out but from the details involving Churchill’s opposition to giving women the right to vote (which occured in 1918) I am guessing 1910 or so.  The editor of paper, a lower circulation publication which prides itself on quality journalism and supports The Conservative Party overall, wants an article written on a community in India, Chandernagore, near Calcutta.  Here is how the trouble starts:

“The following morning, Mr. Peabody allocated Enid the task of drafting something about an impending spat between the French and the British somewhere west of Calcutta. ‘Come on strong about the Empire quashing any interference from Johnny Foreigner,’ he said. ‘We can’t have these Frenchies getting above themselves.’ To Hattie, he allocated a feature about the history of milk puddings. ‘You can link it nicely to Enid’s piece about the Empire,’ he said. ‘There’s nothing like a good rice pudding with the skin on, topped with a sprinkle of nutmeg.’ George, on the other hand, was given the job of covering the two-day visit of the President of the Board of Trade, Mr. Winston Churchill, who would be speaking at the Assembly Rooms that very evening”

Enid is infuriated, she tries to talk Hattie into jointly demanding Mr. Peabody allow them to jointly cover the rally.  Swinney does a marvelous job showing us what happens at the rally.  

The story takes a very interesting direction.  I will not say more of the plot so you can enjoy it, as did I.

Swinney brought Mr. Peabody, Edith, Hattie as well as the rally and news paper office very much to life.  For me, this story was a mini-history lesson!


I look forward to reading more stories by Janet H Swinney, especially her first collection.


Below is a good balanced article on Churchill’s evolving views on Women’s Suffrage


From the author’s website 

Janet was born and grew up in the North East of England in a time of soot, formica, and winkle pickers; when it was actually compulsory to smoke on buses and packets of crsips used to have blue twists of salt inside them.
Her education was something she can’t talk about without getting variously annoyed, upset and outraged.
She spent many years oscillating between Scotland, where she felt more comfortable culturally and politically, and the South East of England where there were better employment opportunities. She now lives in London.
She worked for many years in post-16 education as a practitioner, manager, trainer, inspector and consultant, but has always felt compelled to write. Now, writing is her top priority, and she has just completed her first anthology of short fiction.

She has travelled widely in India, and is a long-standing practitioner of yoga. She advocates on behalf of women’s rights worldwide via the international development organisation ‘Womankind Worldwide


Mel u


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

A Cobbler’s Tale by Neil Perry Gordon - 2018







The Cobbler’s Tale begins in a small Jewish community in Galacia, in 1910 it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  (Today it is in Poland.)  Pincus Potasznik, is a second generation cobbler (cobblers repaired, cleaned and made  shoes and boots) with a shop inherited from his father, his wife Clara, pregnant, and three children.  He is Jewish in a time and place where life is hard and sometimes dangerous for Jews.  1910 is a time of massive emigration from Eastern Europe to America.  The first point of settlement was often the Lower East Side area of New York City.

Everyone said things were going to get worse for Jews.  His neighbors said Pincus,  “go to America, the streets are paved with gold, no body starves, their are no pograms”.  After getting up the courage to talk to his Rabbi who encourages him to go he gets up the nerve  to tell his wife he is moving to America.  The plan is he will, as many men have done, set up housekeeping and start a  shop and then after a year come back for her and the children.   They will be supported by income from the cobbler shop and he will send money back.

After following his trip to the port, he will meet a man who will be his “partner” in settling in NYC.   His friend, with a shady past going to America under a false name, makes a  very important connection to what turns out to be a powerful Jewish gangster.  

Gordon does a great job taking us along on steerage to America.  Everyone is worried about the Ellis Island interview.  The friend of Pincus was given the card of a man that helps new arrivals.  Every chapter has an exciting turn.  We meet crooked Irish cops, gangsters and a beautiful Irish singer who will play a big part in the story.

Four years go by, the NYC cobbler shop is doing well and Pincus sends home money.   There is a lot of drama back in Poland and in NYC.  Then war breaks out and Pincus knows he must go get his family.  So he and his friend head back.  After a very emotional reunion and a turmoil filled prelude they are in the way to NYC.  But this time they are traveling first class.  It was interesting to learn immigrants in first class did not have to go through the interview process on Ellis Island.  An official would come on board the ship and do all the paperwork there.

There is just a lot of great detail, cliffhanger turns, fascinating characters in The Cobbler’s Tale.

An immigrant Jew needed help getting a job, a place to live and much more.  A very big aid in this were landsmanshaftn organizations whose members all came originally from one particular area.  Pincus, with the help of another man from his village, sets up an organization designed for new arrivals from his area.  Eventually it has over 300 members.  Founding this society gave him a high standing back in his village and in NYC.  Any kind of a problem you went to the head of your landsmanshaftn for help.

Gordon does a great job bringing to reality life in the Lower East Side of New York City.  

I really enjoyed this book a lot.  For those considering this book for young adults there is an R rated near rape seen.  Aside from this, this would be very readable by young adults.

For a historical treatment of the NYC Jewish immigrant experience I highly recommend World of Our Fathers The Journey of the East European Jews to America and the Life  they Found and Made by Irving Howe.

My bottom line.  The Cobbler’s Tale is a first rate historical novel about the Jewish immigrant experience in New York City.  The characters are very well developed, you can easily transport your self to the Lower East Side in 1914 through the very elegant prose of Gordon.

Neil Perry Gordon grew up in the village of Monsey, a suburb of New York City, and still lives today not far from his childhood home. His joy of art and fiction writing was kindled during his education at the Green Meadow Waldorf School. He has written two trade books, The Designer’s Coach and An Architect’s Guide to Engineered Shading Solutions.  Both books, as well as many trade articles, have been well received and have affirmed Neil’s expertise in the window covering industry. A Cobbler’s Tale is Neil’s first novel and is based loosely on the story of his great-grandparents’ immigration to the Lower East Side...

Mel u
















Tuesday, October 16, 2018

“The Jew Hater” - A Short Story by Helen Maryles Shankman - from They Were Like Family to Me: Stories - 2016








“The Jew Hater” is the longest of the stories in They Were Like Family to Me.

“Pavel Walczak hated Jews. When the first German soldiers came knocking on the door of his isolated farmhouse, they were just thirsty. Pavel took it upon himself to point out the homesteads and businesses of his Jewish neighbors.”

Panel was once a happy man,with a wife and a young daughter that were the center of his world.  Then in 1925 they both died during the world wide Spanish Influenza  Epidemic.  His neighbors saw this took any joy in life he ever had.  He kept running his farm, his only companion a dog.  Believing what was in the  Press, as supported in time by the German rulers of Poland, he was convinced the epidemic was engineered by the world wide Jewish cabal.  The objective was to kill of Christians.  Given this and like many a miserable person he was filled with the Germanic spirit of Schadenfreude, taking joying in the misery of Jews.  He was of course paid for turning in Jews by the local SS.

One day a Jewish leader of the anti-German partisans visits him.  Panel at first thinks  he is there to kill him.  But no, he is leaving his sister’s young daughter, a girl Panel says be spotted as Jewish by her bright read hair.  Pavel asks the partisan, “How do you know I Will not turn her in  as soon as you leave ?”
The partisan tells him if she is not here when I return to retrieve her, I will burn down your born with you inside. He tells him he knows the Germans will never think a Jew Hater like him would harbour a Jewish child.

At first Pavel hates the girl, when the SS visits he has her cover her hair and pretend to be mute.  Pavel’s dog loves her.

Shankman does a wonderful job of showing us how taking care of the girl changes Pavel.  She draws on Kabbalistic traditions for a delightful segment of magic realism.


This is a very exciting detail rich story.  I will leave rest of the plot for lucky readers to discover.  The ending is so powerful many will be overcome.

So far this is second story from this collection upon which I have posted, adfitionally I have read two others.  For sure I will read the rest.  

My prediction is that this collection will be listed among classic works of Holocaust fiction.

Mel u



















They Were Like Family to Me by Helen Maryles Shankman is a collection of eight interrelated short stories.  Most take place during the German occupation of a Wlodawa, a city in Poland.  The collection has received very high praise, it mixes magic realism with vivid descriptions of people and events.  The times were terrible.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

“A COTTAGE IN THE LAURENTIANS”. - A Short Story by Chava Rosenfarb




Chava Rosenfarb on The Reading Life



  From The Jewish Women’s Archive. A bio





After The Holocaust Yiddish Literature was very different from before The War.  It became almost entirely a literature written by immigrants to New York City, Montréal, Toronto, Sydney, Buenos Aires, Rio de Jeniro and Isrsel. I recently found  an anthology, first published in 1912 by The Society of Jewish Publications now available as a Kindle on Amazon (free).  It might be the first such anthology.  There are no 

works by women in this collection. Everything was written in Eastern Europe or Russia.  The Holocaust destroyed families, it forced women immigrants, to make new lives in huge cities so unlike their former home towns. Survivors needed to tell their stories. The Holocaust greatly challenged the faith of Jews everywhere.  How could God let this happen to them?  


Chava Rosenfarb survived, with her sister and mother, Auschwitz, moving to Montréal after the war, spending a few years in Beligium first.  All of her very prolic highly regarded multi-genre work involves Holocaust survivors.  

“A COTTAGE IN THE LAURENTIANS” is about a married couple living in Montreal.  As did Chava Rosenfarb and her first husband, they met and fell in love at a concentration camp. One of the things so evident in this story is Rosenfarb’s incredible ability to paint scenes of natural beauty.  

(The images above are of the Laurentians area of Quebec)

We follow the couple from the very early years of their marriage up to it’s dissolution twenty years later.  One thing they both loved was spending time in the Lauerntian mountains at a cottage they bought very early in their marriage.

Here is a sample of how much a master can put in a few sentences.

“Sonia and Victor were born in Lodz, the Polish Manchester. Both were concentration camp survivors who had lost their families, friends, and neighbours during the war. They had arrived in Canada carrying the substantial psychic baggage of horrific nightmares and tragic recollections, but aside from these, they had –in a manner of speaking –nothing else to declare. In their memories, the pre-war childhood vacations which they had taken in the sub-Carpathian regions of Poland stood out like the images of a paradise lost. The Laurentian Mountains reminded them of those enchanted spots, and so, even at a time when they could scarcely afford it, when their children were still small, Victor and Sonia had rented a cottage in the Laurentians when the summer heat made Montreal unbearable. They had borrowed money and renounced small luxuries so that they could rent a small cottage near Le petit lac mirage, which was located in a remote area, far from the bustle of the more fashionable vacation spots, an hour and a half drive from Montreal. Later, when their financial situation improved, they bought the cottage. Victor, who was a Yiddish writer, had been offered a teaching position at the Jewish Teachers’ Seminary in Montreal; Sonia, also a teacher, was hired by a Jewish high school. It was then that they began to spend not only their summer vacations, but also their weekends in the Laurentians.”

As the story goes on with how happy the family, now with a violin prodigy son and an academically gifted daughter, I had the feeling something terrible was coming.  I was not wrong but it was not anything I would ever have guessed.

I was left with two strong wishes after reading this story.  One was to spend an autumn month in a cabin deep in the Laurentians mountains and the other was to read more by Rosenfarb.  As of now I have access to seven of her short stories I have not yet read, including one online “In the boxcars”.  Her trilogy, The Tree of Life is considered by all one of the great master works of Holocaust fiction but at a cost of $57.00 plus shipping, it is about 2000 pages, I probably will never get to read this.  

I read this in The Exile Book of Yiddish Women Writers / edited by Frieda Johles Forman. This is a first rate collection meant to show the world the work of Yiddish Women who emigrated to Canada.

The story was translated by her daughter Goldie Morgentaler 

The website below is a wonderful resource, with lots of pictures.



Mel u
















CHAVA ROSENFARB (1923 - 2011)Prize-winning writer of fiction, poetry and drama, Chava Rosenfarb was born February 9, 1923 in Lodz, the industrial centre of Poland before the Second World War. She completed Jewish secular school and gymnasium in this community where several hundred thousand Jews lived —nearly half the population of the area. The Holocaust put an end to one of the richest centres of Judaism in all of Europe. Like many Jews of the city, Rosenfarb was incarcerated in the infamous Lodz ghetto. She survived there from 1940 to 1944, when she and her sister Henia became inmates of the concentration camps of Auschwitz, then Sasel and Bergen-Belsen. Even in the ghetto Rosenfarb wrote, and she hasn’t stopped since. Her first collection of ghetto poems, Di balade fun nekhtikn vald [The Ballad of Yesterday’s Forest] was published in London in 1947. After the liberation Rosenfarb moved to Belgium. She remained in Belgium until 1950, when she immigrated immigrated to Montreal. In Montreal, Rosenfarb obtained a diploma at the Jewish Teachers’ Seminary in 1954. Rosenfarb has produced a prolific body of writing, all of which speaks from her experience during the Holocaust. Her work has been translated into both Hebrew and English. Rosenfarb has been widely anthologized and has had her work appear in journals in Israel, England, the United States, Canada and Australia in Yiddish and in English and Hebrew translation. Among the many prizes awarded her work, she has received the I.J. Segal Prize (Montreal, 1993), the Sholom Aleichem Prize (Tel-Aviv, 1990) and the Niger Prize (Buenos Aires, 1972). She has travelled extensively, lecturing on Yiddish literature in Australia, Europe and South America as well as in Israel and the United States..  From Found Treasures: Stories by Yiddish Women Writers..  from Found Treasures: Stories by Yiddish Women.

Friday, October 12, 2018

“The Little Messiah”. - A Short Story centered on The Traditions of. Yeminite Jews in The 1950s - by Rikudah Potash







RIkudah  Potash 

Born 1903 in Tshenstokhov, Poland

Moves to Jerusalem in 1934 

Dies 1965 in Jerusalem

In the early 1950s thousands of Yeminite Jews migrated to Israel.  At time Israel was largely settled by Eastern European and Russian immigrants, commonly identfied as Yiddish Jews.  They dominated the society in all areas.  The reasons for mass migration Jews from Yemen, a subject I just began to explore today, are complicated and controversial.  It is clear many did not want them in Israel.  There are unsubstantiated to this day claims of kidnapping of Yemenite babies to be raised as “mainstream” Europeans tradition Jews.  They were looked down upon for their skin tone, at the time many suggested they were not    “Pure Jews” but mixed with African bloodlines.


Rikudah Potash is one of the very few, writing in Yiddish, who focused on stories about Yemenite Jews living in Israel.  “The Little Messiah” shows Yemenite traditions involved, circa 1950, when a boy is born.  Potash vividly showed us what happens on this all important occasion.

“It didn’t take long for two young boys with long peyehs sidelocks to appear. They went from door to door to announce that a male child had been born. It also didn’t take long for Yemenite women, young and old, to push themselves through the low doorway where the kimpetorin, the woman who’d just given birth, lay on a raised bed, wrapped in a colourful Yemenite shawl. She looked like a little girl herself. She had a black pim-ple on the tip of her nose, and large, dark, dreamy eyes. Her hands were tawny, childlike, and they fluttered nervously. All the cheder boys came by to get a taste of Alkhasid’s delicacy. The women coming to wish her mazel tov placed their hands to their lips three times and let out a strange wail”.

There seems to be something very special about this baby, it is felt he maybe a “little messiah” destined to lead his people out of poverty and repression.

He appears to be born holding The Old Testament.

“Nemah, the really old one, not a single tooth left in her mouth, tells the kimpetorin what she dreamt: “To Simkhe was born a little Messiah. He came out of the womb with a tiny Tanakh in his hand, and this was a sign that he had studied the Torah for the whole nine months. He didn’t even get scared when the angel came to give him a flick under the nose so that he would forget everything, a sure sign that he had brought the Tanakh with him.” 

The second day of his birth an old man comes and begins to play unceasingly a flute.  After some discussion, the consensus is the old flute player was sent by The Great Messiah.

There is a lot of very interesting details about birth folklore, messiahs and much more.  

This story was elegantly translated from Yiddish by Shirley Kumove.  

I do not have the first publication data. If you do, please let me know.

Rikudah Potash (1903–1965) Born in Tshenstokhov, Poland, Rikudah Potash became a poet at sixteen. Stirred up by the Lemberg pogrom of 1918, she turned to Yiddish; her stories, novellas, essays, and theatre pieces appeared in literary journals worldwide. In 1934 she left Poland and settled in Jerusalem, where she lived for the next thirty years and continued her multi-faceted literary life. Her last prose writings, In geslekh fun Yerusholoyim ( In the Alleyways of Jerusalem), were devoted to the Eastern Jews from Yemen, Bukhara, and Salonika facing the challenging realities in the newly established state of Israel...from The Exile Book of Yiddish Women Writers / edited by Frieda Johles Forman; translated by the Toronto Yiddish Translation Group: Sam Blatt, Sarah Faerman, Vivian Felsen, Frieda Johles Forman, Shirley Kumove, Sylvia Lustgarten, Goldie Morgentaler, Alisa Poskanzer, and Ida Wynberg. Includes bibliographical 






















Rikudah Potash (1903–1965) Born in Tshenstokhov, Poland, Rikudah Potash became a poet at sixteen. Stirred up by the Lemberg pogrom of 1918, she turned to Yiddish; her stories, novellas, essays, and theatre pieces appeared in literary journals worldwide. In 1934 she left Poland and settled in Jerusalem, where she lived for the next thirty years and continued her multi-faceted literary life. Her last prose writings, In geslekh fun Yerusholoyim ( In the Alleyways of Jerusalem), were devoted to the Eastern Jews from Yemen, Bukhara, and Salonika facing the challenging realities in the newly established state of Israel...from The Exile Book of Yiddish Women Writers / edited by Frieda Johles Forman; translated by the Toronto Yiddish Translation Group: Sam Blatt, Sarah Faerman, Vivian Felsen, Frieda Johles Forman, Shirley Kumove, Sylvia Lustgarten, Goldie Morgentaler, Alisa Poskanzer, and Ida Wynberg. Includes bibliographical 






Tuesday, October 9, 2018

“Chava” - considered among the greatest of the short stories of Sholem Aleichem





Sholem Aleichem on The Reading Life


“Chava”

First published in May of 1905 

“Hoydu lashem ki toyv—whatever God does is for the best. That is, it had better be, because try changing it if you don’t like it! I was once like that myself; I stuck my nose into this, into that, until I realized I was wasting my time, threw up my hands, and said, Tevye, what a big fool you are! You’re not going to remake the world … The good Lord gave us tsa’ar gidul bonim, which means in plain language that you can’t stop loving your children just because they’re nothing but trouble. If my daughter Tsaytl, for example, went and fell for a tailor named Motl Komzoyl, was that any reason to be upset? True, he’s a simple soul, the fine points of being a Jew are beyond him, he can’t read the small print at all-but what of it? You can’t expect the whole world to have a higher education. He’s still an honest fellow who works hard to support his family. He and Tsaytl—you should see what a whiz she is around the house!—have a home full of little brats already, touch wood, and are dying from sheer happiness. Ask her about it and she’ll tell you that life couldn’t be better. In fact, there’s only one slight problem, which is that her children are starving “

“Chava”, one of the Teyve the Milkman stories upon which Fiddler on the Roof was based, is considered one of Aleichem’s greatest stories. Like other stories in the cycle it is in the form of a monologue spoken by Teyve to the author.  Teyve and his wife Golde have seven daughters, all at or near marriage age.  Custom requires they marry within their faith.  Teyve is very concerned when he sees his daughter Chava talking in a familiar way with a Ukrainian Christian man.  He asks her what they were talking about and she, any parent will relate to this, says “nothing”.

Compressing a lot, he runs into the local Christian priest.  He has a long standing friendly debate going with him about whose faith is valid but this time he gets some shocking news.

I don’t want to tell more of the plot.  The very real joy of this story is in the philosophical debate between Teyve and Chava.

We have three daughters 21, 23, and 25 and I found this just totally relatable.

I have access to maybe sixty stories by Sholem Aleichem either in E books or online.  I look forward to reading them all.




Sholem Aleichem, the pseudonym of a Russified Jewish intellectual named Solomon Rabinovitz (1859–1916), created many of the most enduring works of modern Yiddish fiction. Born in Pereyaslav, Ukraine, he received a traditional education and lived in Kiev and Odessa before immigrating to New York City. Upon his death in 1916, the New York Times published a front-page obituary, memorializing him as “the Jewish Mark Twain.” More than 100,000 people attended his funeral procession, making it the largest New York City had ever seen. His humorous representations of the rhythms of Yiddish-speaking Eastern European Jewish life have had a lasting influence on modern Jewish literary traditions... From The Yiddish Book Center


Monday, October 8, 2018

THE WORLDS OF SHOLEM ALEICHEM The Remarkable Life and Afterlife of the Man Who Created Tevye by Jeremy Dauber - 2013






THE WORLDS OF SHOLEM ALEICHEM The Remarkable Life and Afterlife of the Man Who Created Tevye by Jeremy Dauber - 2013

This is the first ever comprehensive biography of Sholem Aleichem, one of the greatest short story writers.

1859 Born in The Ukraine, then part of the Russian Empire

1916 Dies in New York City, then part of The U.S.A.  His funeral is attended by 250,000

To most people, certainly me a few years ago, Yiddish writers were divided into two categories, Sholom Aleichem and a bunch of authors I have never heard about who i would never have read were it not for Yale University Press giving me a full set of The Yale Yiddish Library.  These nine volumes, introduced by top authorities in Yiddish Studies, include some of the great classics.
Among the works were two totally marvelous novels  by Sholom Aleichem.  All of the works were pre-Holocaust, written in Eastern Europe and Russia.  All were by men.  As Yiddish speakers left Europe, mostly to NYC then Toronto and Montréal women writers like Blume Lempel and Chava Rosenfarb began publishing in Yiddish.  I have talked a bit about the history of Yiddish Literature (running from around 1875 to maybe 2004 with the passing of the last of the emigrated writers) in prior posts.  My perception is most seriously into Yiddish Literature, a huge treasure trove of Short Stories, are “heritage readers” seeking ties with the world of their ancestors in Eastern Europe.  Behind it is also a powerful message to those who would destroy Jewish Culture, you lose, we win.  I read in this area because it is an incredibly wonderful literature.  The stories range from heart breaking to funnier than a Mel Brooks movie.  Yiddish scholarship has very strong support and thanks to the internet, and maybe especially The Yiddish Book Center, interest is rapidly growing.  YouTube has lots of good videos and readings of stories.

Anyway Sholom Aleichem is by far now most known Yiddish writer.  He is most famous from the movie Fiddler on the Roof based on his Tevye Cycle, centering on a Russian dairyman and his relationship with his daughters.  So far I have read only one story in the series, “Chava”.  For sure I agree with those who see it as great literature, perhaps high art.  

THE WORLDS OF SHOLEM ALEICHEM The Remarkable Life and Afterlife of the Man Who Created Tevye by Jeremy Dauber is a very delightful literary biography.  Dauber very much brings Sholom Aleichem to life.  He presents the Life of the author almost as if were a Yiddish novel.  Every chapter title refers to him as “our hero”.  Dauber does a wonderful job of blending cultural history, an account of a very event filled life along with commentary about his writings, stories, novels, and plays.  He skillfully shows us how his life experiences influenced his work.

Sholom Aleichem married rich, lost a fortune, at times he made very good money from his works.

Dauber helped me understand the economics of the Yiddish Publishing in the period.  Aleichem was not just a writer, for a while he published a journal and he when he could supported other writers.  We follow him as he moves around in Russia, inspite of Tsarist sponsored anti-Semetic laws and pograms, Aleichem never lost his fondness for Russia, travels all over Poland, then onto New York City.  He idolized Charles Dickens and like him he turned to lectures and Public readings to support his family.  We see a very complex publishing business in NYC and Warsaw, some publishers were honest and generous, some published his work without permission or compensation.  In a good year he made about, in 2018 money, $125,000.  

Aleichem in his final years was a super star of the huge New York City and Warsaw Yiddish world.  Toward the end of his life efforts were initiated by major main stream publishers to go big time with English translations of his work. 

Dauber treats us to ten accounts of the impact of his work, from right after his death up to the story behind the production of the plays and then the Fiddler on     the Roof movie.  I wished he could have basked in the glory.  


Sholem Aleichem, the pseudonym of a Russified Jewish intellectual named Solomon Rabinovitz (1859–1916), created many of the most enduring works of modern Yiddish fiction. Born in Pereyaslav, Ukraine, he received a traditional education and lived in Kiev and Odessa before immigrating to New York City. Upon his death in 1916, the New York Times published a front-page obituary, memorializing him as “the Jewish Mark Twain.” More than 100,000 people attended his funeral procession, making it the largest New York City had ever seen. His humorous representations of the rhythms of Yiddish-speaking Eastern European Jewish life have had a lasting influence on modern Jewish literary traditions... From The Yiddish Book Center

JEREMY DAUBER is a professor of Yiddish literature at Columbia University, where he also serves as director of its Institute for Israel and Jewish Studies and teaches in the American Studies program. His previous books include In the Demon’s Bedroom: Yiddish Literature and the Early Modern and Antonio’s Devils: Writers of the Jewish Enlightenment and the Birth of Modern Hebrew and Yiddish Literature. He lives in New York City. From Penguin Books.

I give my total endorsement to this book.  If you are into Yiddish Literature you will be fascinated.  If you are not yet a reader, maybe if you are lucky and open to new experiences you will be started on a  life time reading experience in Yiddish Literature.



A great resource