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





Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Reading Life Review - July 2018

July Authors 




For July five authors are living, ten have taken The Celestial Omnibus.

Nine are men, six women.

Eleven are authors new to The Reading Life, four are old friends

World wide venal rabble rousing politicians scream against immigrants.  I am adding a new  feature to The Reading Life Review, tracking the immigrant
 authors I feature.

This month there are six such authors, each enriched their new homes.  Four emigrated to survive, two for their own reasons.  

By Birth Country

  1. France 3
  2. Poland 3
  3. USA 2
  4. UK 2
  5. Japan 1
  6. Australia 1
  7. Russia 1
  8. Ukraine 1
  9. Czech Republic 

Left Column 

  1. Akihuki Nasaka - Japan - very prolific author
  2. Martine Reid - France - her biography of George Sand was featured 
  3. Lisa Moses Leff - USA - wrote The Archive Thief, nonfiction 
  4. Shloyne Gilbert - Poland- Yiddish language author
  5. Jozef Czafski - Poland, artist and Cultural historian

Middle Column

  1. Gaito Gadanov - born Russia, moved to Paris, wonderful Short stories
  2. Shirley Hazzard - born Australia, lived in Hong Kong, U.S.A, Italy,author Transit of Venus and The Great Fire
  3. David Downie - born U.S.A, moved to France, author of several best selling nonfiction works on Paris
  4. Colette- France
  5. Bohumil Hrabal - Czech Republic - considered on of counties finest 20th Century Writers

Right Column

  1. Andre Schwartz-Bart - France - parents immigrated from Poland, author of The Last Just Man, a Master work
  2. Eric Karpeles - UK - Artist, Cultural historian 
  3. Blume Lempel - born in Ukraine, lived in Paris for ten years then moved to New York State where she lived for fifty years while writing in Yiddish, very frequently featured on The Reading Life
  4. Karen Bartlett - UK - Holocaust Historian
  5. Pinchas Golder - born Poland, moves to Australia as a teenager with his Family,  Australia’s Leading Yiddish language writer

Blog Stats for July 

Since inception there have been 5,320,749 Pages views

3375 posts are online

The top nine most viewed posts are all on Short Stories set before WW II by writers from The Phillippines.  These stories are a great Cultural treasure, helping to keep alive memories fast being lost.

Top Home Countries of visitors

  1. The Phillippines 
  2. The U.S.A
  3. India
  4. France
  5. UK
  6. Lebanon
  7. Vietnam
  8. Germany
  9. Indonesia 

Works I Read but Did not Post Upon

  1. Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick, 2004,kind of a rewrite of The Ambassadors by Henry James with a female lead character
  2. In Another Country by James Baldwin,  1960, overall this seemed dated to me, things like mixed race same sex romances might have been shocking in 1960 but are commonly seen on TV now,  plus The 1960 NYC hipster slang seemed kind of silly.  Parts were beautiful 
  3. “Salmon Rushdie at The Louvre”, Cynthia Ozick, interesting essay
  4. “The Ukrainian Girl” by Catherine McNamara, 2017, very good story
  5. “In The Land of The Armadillos by Helen Maryles Shankman, amazing Holocaust short story.
  6. To Loud a Solitude by Bohumil Hrabil, I loved this book.

Paris in July 2018,an international book Blog event I greatly enjoyed joining in motivated me to read several Paris themed works.  Soon I Will do a seperate post in summery of my experiences.

Coming Plans 

In August I Will be participating in Women in Translation Month, soon I Will do an intro posts on that.

In September and October I am considering focusing on South Asian Writers

In November I hope to once again participate in German Literature Month 

I am  looking for new to me writers and Welcome all suggestions 

Final Thoughts 

My thanks to Max u for his very kind Amazon Gift Cards

To my fellow book bloggers, the world’s greatest readers, keep blogging, taken together we Help fight the growing Miasma of ignorance and venality we all sense.


Mel u 















Sunday, July 29, 2018

The Last of the Just by André Schwarz Bart 1959 Translated from French by Stephen Becker 1960




The Last of the Just by André Schwarz-Bart, 1959

Translated from French by Stephen Becker 1960

Born May 28, 1928 in Metz, France

Died. September 30, 2006 in Pointe-a-Pitfes, Guadeloupe 

His parents emigrated from Poland in 1924

In 1941 his parents were murdered at Auschwitz 

Speaking little French, his first language was Yiddish, at 13 he joined the resistance.  His experiences as a Jew during WW II, gave him the basis for his masterwork, The Last of The Just.

The Last of the Just is so sad, tells a story of such barbarity that it almost made me feel ashamed to be human.    May great art is my redemption.

The novel tells the story of a Jewish family through eight centuries.  In each generation there were what is called in Jewish traditions a “A Just Man”.  If there are 36 Just Men in the world then humanity is justified to God.  The story of the family begins in York England in the 12th century.  The Just man of that generation is executed because he will not convert. In 1941 the last just man was murdered by the Germans at Auschwitz.  He had gone there and asked to be admitted, to die with the woman he loves.  He also hopes with the passing of the last man God will see no need to keep humanity on the earth.

There was a very powerful segment in the novel when a Nazi teacher takes over a class and begins, to the delight of the other boys, to torment the Jewish students.  The Jewish boys had no idea what was behind this.

The depiction of the deaths in the gas chambers was hard to read.

I want to quote a bit from the close of the novel:

“Ah, yes, surely, the letters are taking wing, Ernie repeated as the flame blazing in his chest suddenly invaded his brain. With dying arms he embraced Golda’s body in an already unconscious gesture of loving protection, and they were found in this position half an hour later by the team of Sonderkommando responsible for burning the Jews in the crematory ovens. And so it was for millions, who from Luftmensch became Luft. I shall not translate. So this story will not finish with some tomb to be visited in pious memory. For the smoke that rises from crematoria obeys physical laws like any other: the particles come together and disperse according to the wind, which propels them. The only pilgrimage, dear reader, would be to look sadly at a stormy sky now and then. And praised be Auschwitz. So be it. Maidanek. The Eternal. Treblinka. And praised be Buchenwald. So be it. Mauthausen. The Eternal. Belzec. And praised be Sobibor. So be it. Chelmno. The Eternal. Ponary. And praised be Theresienstadt. So be it. Warsaw. The Eternal. Wilno. And praised be Skarzysko. So be it. Bergen-Belsen. The Eternal. Janow. And praised be Dora. So be it. Neuengamme. The Eternal. Pustkow. And praised be . . . At times, it is true, one’s heart could break in sorrow. But often too, preferably in the evening, I cannot help thinking that Ernie Levy, dead six million times, is still alive, somewhere, I don’t know where. . . . Yesterday, as I stood in the street trembling in despair, rooted to the spot, a drop of pity fell from above upon my face; but there was no breeze in the air, no cloud in the sky . . . there was only a presence.

This novel is challenging.  The ending beyond my clear understanding.

This is high art.

Mel u








Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Collected Stories of Pinchas Goldhar - A Pioneer Yiddish Writer in Australia




The Collected Stories of Pinchas Goldhar A Pioneer Yiddish Writer in Australia, with an introduction by Pam MacLean. 2016. Stories first published between 1931 and 1947 in Yiddish

I was delighted today to stumble upon a collection of short stories by a Yiddish language writer who moved from Poland to Australia, Pinchas Goldhar.

1901- Born in Łódź, Poland

1926 - Moves, along with his widowed father and three siblings to Melbourne, Australia.  The father was rightly concerned about the rise of antisemitism in Poland.  In her introduction to the collection Pam MacLean that in this period Australia was allowing all white immigrants to settle in the country.  

1931  - The first Yiddish language newspaper is started in Australia with Pinchas Goldhar as editor.  The Jewish population in Australia was culturally dominated by Jews from England but there were enough Yiddish readers to support publications and books,  Goldhar translated a number of Australian writers into Yiddish.  He also worked at his father’s dye factory.

1934 Marries and will have three children,  his son contributed an afterword to the collection.

1947- passes away in Melbourne 

Unlike Yiddish immigrants to New York City, immigrants to Australia did not have a vast community to support them.  You had to learn English.  Some immigrants found jobs in the city, others started ranches and farms in the outback.  Goldhar has several stories showing just how isolated these settlers were.  Just like immigrants in New York City, Australian Jews became aware of the horrors of the Holocaust.  This was something no Yiddish writer could ignore.  The first two stories in the collection have a Holocaust setting.

“Cain” is structured as a final letter to his family, from a well known physician:

“DOCTOR HERMANN LOWENSTEIN took his own life by hanging himself in a concentration camp near Dresden. He had been famous throughout the medical world for his scientific experiments and discoveries, and his death was met with a profound sense of regret amongst his contemporaries. He wrote a farewell letter to his family that the Nazis mistakenly overlooked. For a long time this letter travelled a difficult, hazardous and secret road and, when it finally reached Mrs Lowenstein, it was so torn and wrinkled that it was almost impossible to decipher –evidence of how difficult its path had been. 

“This is what Dr Lowenstein wrote in his letter: My loved ones, my dear Klara and children! This letter is not being written to you by a person who has killed himself but by a murderer, someone who has spilt his brother’s blood. I don’t want this letter to arouse your sympathy or be used in defence of my actions. I have sentenced myself to death but I still feel that it is an insufficient punishment for my crime. I am writing to let you know the terrible truth. I don’t want you to grieve over my death, I don’t want you to carry loving feelings for me.”

First published in 1933 in Yiddish, translated by Tania Bruce

I don’t want  to reveal why he sentenced himself to death other than to say it was from shame at what the Germans caused him to become.  The ending of this story, a story as sad as sad can be, is beautiful and redemptive of the human spirit. 

I downloaded the sample Kindle Edition.  It contains a preface, a very informative introduction and two complete stories including “Cain”.

This collection is a major edition to my understanding of the huge scope of Yiddish literature.  It is fairly priced.

Mel u

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

“Images on a Blank Canvas”.— A Short Story by Blume Lempel












“I am a housewife, a wife, a mother, a grandmother —and a Yiddish writer. I write my stories in Yiddish. Yiddish is in my bones. When I hear my mother’s “Oy!” in my head, I lift my eyes to the heavens and hear God answering me in Yiddish.”  Blume Lempel 

Paris in July hosted by Thyme for Tea is a great event.  I Focus on literary works and nonfiction but you are invited to share your thoughts and experience on anything Paris related, from a great recipe, a favourite movie set in Paris, mine is Ninotchka, an account of your stay in Paris.  I hope lots of people join in.  Just be sure to  link you post on the event home page.  

There is still plenty of time to join us.

 There are lots of very interesting posts from food bloggers, Francophiles, travel bloggers, as well as book bloggers.  Normally I don’t venture far from the international book blog community so for me this event is an excellent way to expand my horizons. 

So far I have posted on

  1. “A Yiddish Poet in Paris” by Blume Lempel, 1978
  2. Vagabond by Colette, 1904
  3. Lost Times - Lectures on Proust in a Soviet Prison Camp by Józef Czafski -translated and introduced. by Eric Karpeles - 2018
  4. “Her Last Dance” by Blume Lempel - 
  5. Gerorge Sand by Martine Reid 2017
THE ARCHIVE THIEF The Man Who Salvaged French Jewish History in the Wake of the Holocaust LISA MOSES LEFF
  1. “Cousin Claude” by Blume Lempel
  2. Taste of Paris:A History of the Parisian Love Affair with Food by David Downie
  3. “The Beggar” by Gaito Gazdanov, 1962
  4. “Images on a Blank Canvas” by Blume Lempel

I have three anthologies of Short Stories translated from Yiddish, about sixty different writers.  Looking through the brief included biographies, maybe fiveteen of the authors left their homelands in Eastern Europe between 1929 and 1939, trying to find a country more open to Jews.  Compared to Eastern Europe and Russia, Jews had been left in relative peace in France for five hundred years. Of these writers, about half made it to America before the French began turning over foreign born Jews to the Germans.  Blume Lempel and her husband and children arrived in New York City in 1939.  She loved Paris, was fluent in French and always wanted to return.


I was gratified when my post on a story by Blume Lempel “A Yiddish Poet in Paris” drew attention from event participants.  Many thousands of Eastern European Jews immigrated to France in the 1930s, hoping they would be safer from the Nazis.  


Blume Lempel

Born 1907 in The Ukraine

Moved to Paris in 1929, to be near her brother who lived there.

While in Paris she worked as a furrier and attended night school.


1939- having married and had two children, her Family moved to New York State, out of concern over rising anti-Semiticism.  Many in her extended Family died in The Holocaust as would she and her Family had they not left.  In 1942 French authorities in a compromise with the Germans, agree to arrest and turn over to the Germans all foreign born Jews. 

1943- begins to publish with a Short Story, all her writings were in Yiddish.  In part this was her way of defying those who wanted the magnifcient Yiddish Cultural tradition destroyed.

In 1950 the Family locates permanently in Long Island.

1999 passes away.

This is the fourth  story by Blume Lempel I am including as part of my participation in Paris in July 2018.  Previously I posted on her 
“A Yiddish Poet in Paris”, love the title, and “Her Last Dance”, about a Yiddish heritage French born woman that was the mistress of the chief of Police of Paris while it was occupied by the Germans. I also posted on a story about a man sent out from Paris to New York City by his hiders after his parents were murdered by the Germans.

In my post on THE ARCHIVE THIEF The Man Who Salvaged French Jewish History in the Wake of the Holocaust LISA MOSES LEFF there is a bit of information about what I call Yiddish Paris.

The narrator of “images on a Blank Canvas”, lives in Paris, the time lines are not real clear but well before the Holocaust her family moved from Poland  to Paris.  The story is set long after the war but we dont learn how she escaped being deported to Auschwitz (most all French Jews were sent there).  Her very good friend was captive there when the camp was liberated.  As the story is told she and her friend’s adult daughter are on the way to her funeral in Israel, where she moved later in life.  The power in this dark story is how the Holocaust deformed the spirit of her friend, how twenty years later it drove her to suicide.

Living in Tel Aviv she was shunned because she was a prostitute who lived with an Arab.  

I cannot begin to match descriptive power of Lempel:

“to her eternal rest and remember how gladly I would have relinquished all my worldly ambitions to study in Lemberg. Through the skylight of my Parisian garret I used to look up at the tiny rectangle of heaven that fortune had allotted me and conjure up Zosye’s lush, slumbering garden. How I cursed the fate that had stranded me in Paris on my way to Israel! Zosye did not want to go to Israel, nor did she need to. For her, the vine was abloom with all the brilliant hues of the bejeweled peacock that resides in the dreams of every young woman. How could she have known, as she played the piano, that the civilization of those magical notes was even then writing her people’s death sentence? How could she have known that form and harmony were but the seductive song of the Lorelei, the façade behind which the cannibal sharpened his crooked teeth? Protected and sheltered like the golden lilies in her father’s garden, Zosye could not see those teeth. With the natural power that is the birthright of every living thing, she glowed in the light of the sun. Endowed with all the attributes she needed to thrive and grow, Zosye was primed to scatter her own seeds across God’s willing earth. The pages I turn are blank, as unreadable as the image in a shattered mirror. It occurs to me that the earth to which Zosye is now returning holds the remains of another prostitute, the biblical Tamar, who sat down at the crossroads where fortunes were decided and seduced men with her charms. I search for a spark of Tamar’s desire in the image of Zosye that is anchored deep in my memory. I search for the lust of a whore in her dimples and her rosy, Polish-speaking lips that surely didn’t even know the meaning of the word “prostitute.” I look into her eyes, the reflection of her soul. Her character, unripe, uprooted, is borne by the wind to the four corners of the world. I search for the legacy of modesty passed down through the generations. I search for the set path of her father, and before me another form rises up: her Uncle Shloyme, the Russian. I don’t force this figure to take shape —I let it grow on its own. I relive the terror that his death caused me, which penetrated my dreams long after I’d left my town behind.”

Please excuse the long quote, I want others to feel the depth of Lempel


This story was published in a collection of her work, Oedipus in Brooklyn and Other Stories, named for one of the stories, translated and introduced by Ellen Cassedy and Yermiyahu Taub, assembled from two Yiddish language collections published by Lempel.  In my prior posts on Lempel there are links  to two very good lectures by the translators. I thank them for bringing Lempel to the Yiddish lacking literary world.

Mel u
















Tuesday, July 24, 2018

“The Beggar” - A Short Story by Gaito Gazdanov, first published 1962,translated from Russian 2018 by Bryan Karetnyk








Paris in July hosted by Thyme for Tea is a great event.  I Focus on literary works and nonfiction but you are invited to share your thoughts and experience on anything Paris related, from a great recipe, a favourite movie set in Paris, mine is Ninotchka, an account of your stay in Paris.  I hope lots of people join in.  Just be sure to  link you post on The event home page.  

There is still plenty of time to join us.

 There are lots of very interesting posts from food bloggers, Francophiles, travel bloggers, as well as book bloggers.  Normally I don’t venture far from the international book blog community so for me this event is an excellent way to expand my horizons. 

So far I have posted on

  1. “A Yiddish Poet in Paris” by Blume Lempel, 1978
  2. Vagabond by Colette, 1904
  3. Lost Times - Lectures on Proust in a Soviet Prison Camp by Józef Czafski -translated and introduced. by Eric Karpeles - 2018
  4. “Her Last Dance” by Blume Lempel - 
  5. Gerorge Sand by Martine Reid 2017
THE ARCHIVE THIEF The Man Who Salvaged French Jewish History in the Wake of the Holocaust LISA MOSES LEFF
  1. “Cousin Claude” by Blume Lempel
  2. Taste of Paris:A History of the Parisian Love Affair with Food by David Downie
  3. “The Beggar” by Gaito Gazdanov, 1962


“The longer the emigration went on, the more our Russians resembled the notion we had of them. They flattered us by assimilating themselves to it. Their feeling of playing a part maybe soothed their misery. They bore it more easily once it was appreciated as literature. The Russian count as Paris cabbie takes his fares straight into a storybook. His fate itself may be ghastly. But it is at least literary......They all lost their way. They lost their Russianness and their nobility. And because that was all they had ever been—Russian noblemen—they lost everything. They fell out of the bottom of their own tragedy. The great drama was left without heroes. History bitterly and implacably took its course. Our eyes grew tired of watching a misery they had revelled in. We stood before the last of them, the ones that couldn’t understand their own catastrophe, we knew more about them than they could tell us, and arm in arm with Time, at once cruel and sad, we left these lost souls behind. By Joseph Roth, Frankfurter Zeitung, 14 September 1926. Reprinted in Hotel Years, a collection of essays by Joseph Roth translated and assembled by Michael Hoffman 

Gaito Gazdanov

Born December 6, 1903

1919 - age 16 - served in White Russian military unit as a machine gunner’s assistant

1920 emigrated to Paris, works at various jobs.  In 1926 he begins driving a taxi cab at night, he will continue this until 1953.  He was very active in Russian Emigrés Cultural circles.  During WW II he and his wife helped hide Russian Jews. He edited a resistance journal, at great personal risk.

In 1953 he became a broadcaster for Radio Liberty, moving to Munich.  This is considered now to have been a C I A project aimed at Russians in Europe. He worked there The rest of his Life while he continued writing.

He published Seven novels and some fifty Short stories

When he died in 1971 he was buried in the city he loved,

“The Beggar”, told in the third person is about a man who for years has slept at night in a crate and by day, a to all eyes a complete wreck, wanders the streets of Paris.  He eats scavanged food.  He speaks to no one and most pretend they do not see him.  We slowly learn his back story.  He was once a sucessful business owner with a wife and grown children.  One day he just vanished from sight.  Everyone speculated.  Did he leave for another woman, had his busuness come to ruin, had he committed a horrible crime?  Investigations showed his business was strong, his marriage sound, and his personal life beyond reproach.  

Here he is initially presented to us:

“High up, on the Elysian Fields, where in these winter months from four o’clock in the afternoon neon advertisements glow and the windows of the enormous cafés are illumined, icy sleet was falling, while down below, in the long subterranean passageways of the Métro, the air was warm and still. In the middle of one of these underpasses, always in exactly the same spot, stood an old man in rags, hatless and with a dirty-pink bald patch, around which, above his temples and above the nape of his neck, grey hairs protruded in all directions. As with the majority of Paris’s poor, he was dressed in some shapeless garb. Both his overcoat and his trousers looked as though they had ever been thus, as if they had been made to order like that, with those soft creases, with that absence of any lines or contours, like a dress or a great sackcloth robe that people belonging to another world, and not the one surrounding them, would wear.”

He wanders in a wasteland

“However, no one ever asked him anything. For many years, since he had become a beggar, one of the peculiarities of his existence had consisted in the fact that he had almost ceased speaking, not only because he lacked the urge to do so, but also because there was no necessity. Words and their meaning had long since lost for him their former value, as had everything that preceded his current life. One day he spotted a discarded newspaper: it was lying on the grey floor of the passageway in the Métro, and on the front page, in enormous lettering, were printed the words: “War in korea”. He looked at the newspaper with his dull eyes and marked neither the combination of letters nor their meaning. This war, which was being followed by millions of people the whole world over, did not exist for him, as nothing else existed, except for his own protracted delirium, through which he was slowly but surely moving towards death. Sometimes, when at night he would leave the Métro and walk through the deserted streets of Paris, across the entire city, towards a wasteland on the periphery, where there was an enormous wooden crate in which he would spend the night”

Slowly we learn why he preferred life on the streets to living in a lovely villa, with servants, books, music, family, and abundant money.

I do not wish to spoil this story by explaining to much.

There are five other stories in the collection, for sure I will read them all, saving one, I hope, for my participation in Paris in the Spring 2019.

Mel u