Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Saturday, August 8, 2020

“Aunt Taibele” - a short story by Sarah Hamer-Jacklyn, translated from The Yiddish by Miranda Cooper - first published 1965, translated 2020

“Aunt Taibele” - a short story by Sarah Hamer-Jacklyn, translated from The Yiddish  by Miranda Cooper - first published 1965, translated 2020

You may read “Aunt Taibele” here 

Born 1905 in Novvoradomsk, Poland

Immigrated 1904 to Montreal, with her parents

Passes on in 1975 in Montreal

Sarah Hamer-Jacklyn was a long time preformer in the Montreal Yiddish Theater.  Second to New York City, Montreal had a large number of Yiddish immigrants.  While merging with much success into Canadian society, they cherished their heritage. 

In addition to acting, Hamer-Jacklyn was a very frequent contributor of short stories to Yiddish language periodicals.

On January 9 2019 I posted upon two Short Stories by Sarah Hamer-Jacklyn included in The Exile Book of Yiddish Women Writers / edited by Frieda Johles

Today’s story ends with a pandemic taking a high toll.  It seemed very appropriate somehow to post on this now.  The story also reflects the closeness though hardly drama free families of the shtetls of Eastern Europe and Russia.

“Aunt Taibele” is both funny and very sad, a combation not uncommon in Yiddish literature.  The story is set in Nowo-Radomsk,Poland.

Here is the opening description of Aunt Taibele:

“Aunt Taibele was coming to Nowo-Radomsk from Gwoźnica. She was really more of a distant relative, but the whole family called her “aunt.”

In our house, there was always talk of “Aunt Taibele.” Grandma used to travel to Gwoźnica often to visit her and her husband and see to it that the young couple always had food on the table. She told us that Moyshe Haim, Taibele’s husband, complained that his wife was a public nuisance, a wicked woman, a shrew. And Taibele said that her husband was a glutton and a drunkard—he had to have a snack before he went to daven, and what’s more, he was a big bon vivant. Grandma always sided with Aunt Taibele.”

Aunt Taibele is divorced with one child.”Whereever she went she was angry and sullen, full of grievances against the world and her ex-husband”.She soon moves out on her own and establishes a business making and selling soap.

“She only stayed with us for two weeks, during which time she found herself an apartment and started a soap business. Once a week on market day, she would set up a little stand for her homemade soap and sell it to ladies. During the rest of the week she courted customers in well-to-do houses and sold them fragrant, exotic soaps. She never borrowed from anyone but also hated to pay out of her own pocket. This business was her source of income. Her only goal in life was to take pity on people, help the sick, collect charity for the destitute. She applied cupping glasses to her patients and leeches under their ears, helped ward off the evil eye, and anointed the ill with salve and ointment that she had made herself from various medicinal herbs. Aunt Taibele never missed a funeral. She would weep and accompany the corpse to the cemetery. With secret joy, she listened to the difficulties of sad souls and consoled them. And soon all of Nowo-Radomsk called her “Aunt Taibele”.

Soon people in the community begin looking for a new husband for her.  But she rejects perfectly decent men.  She has one close friend, a widower with a sick son. Somehow this woman’s misery draws her to her.  Once the widow marries a grocer with a secure income Taibele draws away.

Then one fine day Taibele marries again, to a grave-digger.  

“Aunt Taibele married the gravedigger, who was an energetic man, but unclean and unkempt, with a neglected house. The whole shtetl speculated that the couple wouldn’t even last as long as the time between the Fast of Esther and Purim. 
But it soon became clear that this was a match made in heaven. The marriage imbued Aunt Taibele with new life. A red flush spread across her cheeks. Her ever-sour face shone. She replaced all her household items, threw away the old beds, bought new ones. She shined her bronze candlesticks, hung new curtains, scoured, polished, and bleached the two rooms. Suddenly she became a real lady of the house, and saw to it that her husband was clean and well put together. She cooked and baked. She also worked together with her husband at the cemetery, accompanying each new corpse, never leaving the grave until the last shovelful of earth had fallen.”

Then a plague began to spread in the area.  There was a Custom at the time to hold what were called “Plague Wedding” were staged in an effort to ward of the plague.  Here is Miranda Cooper’s explanation of this:

“plague weddings, known as mageyfe khasenes or shvartse khasenes. This superstitious ritual involved marrying people on the margins of society to one another in an effort to ward off the plague. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been increased interest in this ritual, still little-known in many Jewish communities”.

“Then a plague broke out in Nowo-Radomsk. The rabbi ordered that the black khupe be erected over the cemetery. The whole town, under the leadership of Aunt Taibele, got involved. An orphan girl was found and married to Berele, the town fool. Aunt Taibele stood in for the orphan’s mother for the wedding. She and another community matriarch went to the stores for meat, fish, challah, wine, and liquor, and they set about cooking.  
Almost the whole town gathered at the cemetery. Aunt Taibele and her husband accompanied the orphan bride to the khupe. Aunt Taibele, dressed in her silk dress, distributed food among the poor and announced the wedding presents, gathering them all in a large box. She even found an apartment for the young couple. When the plague began to subside, she felt that it was thanks in large part to her and her husband.”

The story ends happily.  

Sarah Hamer-Jacklyn (1905–1975) Born in Novoradomsk, Poland, Sarah Hamer-Jacklyn immigrated to Canada in 1914. Captivated by the Yiddish theatre in Toronto, she began her career as an actress and singer at sixteen. Retaining her love of Yiddish as well as her dramatic connection with the theatre, her short stories serialized in the Canadian Yiddish daily Der Keneder Adler, as well as in major literary journals, depict a wide range of subjects spanning shtetl life, Holocaust narratives, and women’s search for creative expression in America. Her collection of short stories, including Lebens un gestalten ( Lives and Portraits) and Shtamen un tsveygn ( Stumps and Branches), published in the 1940s and 1950s, were received with critical acclaim. From The Exile Book of Yiddish Women Writers / edited by Frieda Johles Forman

Miranda Cooper is a New York–based writer, editor, and literary translator. Her translations from Yiddish have been published in Jewish Currents and Pakn Treger, and her literary and cultural criticism has been published by Kirkus Reviews, Jewish Currents, Tablet, JTA, In geveb, Alma, the Jewish Book Council, and the Yiddish Book Center. She currently serves as an editor of In geveb and was a 2019 Yiddish Book Center Translation Fellow.

This is my fourth story by Sarah Hamer-Jacklyn.  I hope a collection of her stories will be published soon.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Joe Gets Suspended from The Union - A Short Story by Y. Y. Zevin - 1909 . Translated from The Yiddish by Dan Setzer - 2015

Joe Gets Suspended from The Union - A Short Story by Y. Y. Zevin - 1909 . Translated from The Yiddish by Dan Setzer - 2015

This story is included in the collection of stories by Y. Y. Zevin, Joe The Waiter, translated  by Dan Setzer

You may read today’s story here

Israel Joseph Zevin published under several names, Y. Y. Zevin and Tashrak were the most common. He also published as himself.  (There is a detailed bio below.)

Born - 1872 in Horki, Belorussia

1887 - Moves to New York City

Dies - 1926 in New York City

Isreael Zevin was a very prolific multi-genre writer.  He published in English, Hebrew, and Yiddish.  It is for his brief humorous fictions about immigrates getting used to New York City that he are still read.

“Joe Gets Suspended” must have made New City readers of Yiddish (estimated at about 250,000) laugh and wryly smile saying “yeah that is how things are for a man trying to make a living as a waiter in New York City.  Joe, a member of the Waiters Union, is serving dinner.  A union official enters the restuarant and advises him he has been suspended from the Union.  If he keeps serving, they will throw a strike closing The place down.  Through some weird Union rules sevice cannot be resumed to the customers.  They must start over with a new waiter.  Some get mad and walk out.  Joe asks “why am I suspended.?”  He is told he must come to a union meeting at one A. M, waiters often work until midnight.

The reason for his suspension was just so crazy I was delighted by inventiveness of the author.

TASHRAK (Heb. 1926–1872; תּשר״ק), most common pseudonym of Israel Joseph Zevin, a humorist and pioneer of the Yiddish press in America. Born in Horki (Belorussia), Zevin immigrated to the U.S. in the late 1880s. From 1893 until his death he was on the staff of the Orthodox daily Yidishes Tageblat in New York, and wrote under his own name and the pseudonym Yudkovitch. He became a member of the paper's editorial board and for a time served as its editor-in-chief. From 1924 he wrote, under the names Dr. A. Adelman and Meyer Zonenshayn, for the Morgn Zhurnal, also in New York. His writings – stories, feuilletons, and articles on current affairs – appeared in other American newspapers and in the foreign press. He won recognition principally for his humorous tales about the typical Jewish immigrant's adventures in the U.S. (later these appeared in book form as Y.Y. Zevins Geklibene Shriftn ("Selected Works of Y.Y. Zevin," 1906); Geklibene Shriftn ("Selected Works," 1909); and Tashraks Beste Ertseylungen ("Tashrak's Best Stories," 4 vols., 1910). He also published anthologies of aggadot, midrashim, and proverbs (Ale Mesholim fun Dubner Magid ("The Complete Proverbs of the Dubner Maggid," 2 vols., 1925); Ale Agodes fun Talmud … ("The Complete Aggadot of the Talmud," 3 vols., 1922); Der Oytser fun Ale Medroshim, ("The Complete Treasury of Proverbs," 4 vols., 1926)), which he had collected and translated into Yiddish toward the end of his life. Zevin wrote children's stories (Mayselekh far Kinder, "Stories For Children," 1919), a number of stories in Hebrew, and a posthumously published novel. From 1905 he began to write in English, mainly translating his own stories which appeared in the English section of the Tageblat and in the weekly American Hebrew. Between 1914 and 1917 he was a regular contributor to the Sunday issue of the New York Herald, and became known for his essays, interviews, and humorous pieces on New York Jewish life.


Dan Setzer is a Maryland-based translator of Yiddish and Italian. He is currently translating the memoirs of a German soldier who served in World War II.

I offer my thanks to Dan Setzer for making this and other heritage stories available

Mel u


Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Villa of Delirium by Adrien Goetz - 2017 - translated from the French by Natasha Lehrer - 2020 - published by New Vessel Press

Villa of Delirium by Adrien Goetz - 2017 - translated from the French by Natasha Lehrer - 2020 - published by New Vessel Press

Paris in July 2020 - Hosted by Thyme for Tea - extended for a week

Villa of Delirium is a work anyone seriously into European Art and Literature will love.  It centers on an affluent French Jewish Family, the  Reinachs, who re-creating a Greek Villa on the Rivera.  They are related to the Rothchilds and other wealthy Jewish families.The story begins in the early 1900s and follows the families history through much of the 20th Century.  The family was taken from history though the narrator Achilles the narrator is not.

The Reinachs were at their zenith during the Belle Époque era in France.  We are given a marvelous insiders view of the scholars, deeply read auto-didacts and art connoisseurs in the family. Ultimately it becomes an account of how the monsterous events of World War II not only destroyed the  Villa but almost took down three thousand years  of European culture and history.

The narrator Achiles is son of a servant at the estate of the Eiffel family, living nearby.  He is adopted by the Reinach and is taught to read ancient Greek literature.  He narrates construction of the viila.

I don’t wish to reveal to much of the plot lines which follows Achilles  Life.

What I think I liked best sbout Villa of Delirium was Achilles numerous interior monlogues about literature and art.  He sees the decay of European culture much as did Stefan Zweig.

I can see myself rereading this book for sure.

Adrien Goetz is a novelist who teaches art history at the Sorbonne in Paris. He is editor of Grande Galerie, the quarterly magazine of the Louvre Museum.  From

Mel u

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

“Bettering Myself” - A Short Story by Ottessa Moshfegh - from her debut collection Home Sick for Another World - 2017 - first published in The Paris Review - Spring 2013

“Bettering Myself” - A Short Story by Ottessa Moshfegh - from her debut collection Home Sick for Another World - 2017 - first published in The Paris Review - Spring 2013

You can read today’s story here

An interesting unusual interview with Ottessa Moshfegh

A fascinating article from The Guardian

I first became aware of the fiction of Ottessa Moshfegh in an article on the best debut  collections of short stories published in 2017.  I am very glad to have found her.

“Bettering Myself” is the lead story in her very highly reviewed collection Homesick for Another World.

The narrator of the story is a math teacher at a Catholic School.   A lot of the students are from families of immigrants from the Ukraine.  She is thirty, receiving alimony from an ex-husband who she sometimes calls when intoxicated to complain about her life. She drinks a lot of beer supplemented with whiskey.  She has a boyfriend.  Her description of their relationship contains a very thinly disguised play on words I heard long ago in a Mae West movie:

“The boyfriend came and went on weekends. Together we drank wine and whiskey, romantic things I liked”.

She pretty much hates her job.  Here is her daily routine:

“Between classes I took the sleeping bag out, locked the door, and napped until the bell rang. I was usually still drunk from the night before. Sometimes I had a drink at lunch at the Indian restaurant around the corner, just to keep me going — sharp wheat ale in a squat, brown bottle. McSorley’s was there but I didn’t like all that nostalgia. That bar made me roll my eyes. I rarely made my way down to the school cafeteria, but when I did, the principal, Mr. Kishka, would stop me and smile broadly and say, “Here she comes, the vegetarian.” I don’t know why he thought I was a vegetarian. What I took from the cafeteria were prepackaged digits of cheese, chicken nuggets, and greasy dinner rolls.”

The narrator is a bit of a mess but I liked her.   All of the schools students took a statewide test every year.  Teachers were judged by how their students did on the test. Sadly for her, she teaches the worst students.  So after the tests are completed she takes them home changes the answers so her students seem brilliant.  The principal praises her for her students showing,it makes him look good also.

I will leave the rest of the story for you to read.  “Bettering Myself” is a work of dark dead pan humour which the narrator uses to get through her day.

I plan to do a read through of this collection, hopefully this year.

Ottessa Moshfegh is a fiction writer from New England. Eileen, her first novel, was shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Man Booker Prize, and won the PEN/Hemingway Award for debut fiction. My Year of Rest and Relaxation, her second novel, was a New York Times bestseller.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Today two Between the Wars Stories Set in Paris by Icons of American Literature, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald are featured.

Today two  Between the Wars Stories Set in Paris by Icons of American Literature, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald are featured.  Their time in Paris is the stuff of literary legends.

“My Old Man” by Ernest Hemingway - 1923 - first published  in Three Stories and Ten Poems by Contact Publishing - A small Parisian publisher owned by Robert Menzies McAlmon - (his time in Paris would be an interesting story, perhaps for Paris in July 2021)

“Babylon Revisted” by F. Scott Fitzgerald - 1931 - initially published in The Saturday Evening Post 

Ernest Hemingway 

Born - July 21, 1899 - Oak Park, Illinois

May 1918.  He arrives in Paris just as it is under attack by the Germans 

January 1919 - returns to the USA

October 1921 - returns to Paris with his first wife to work as a foreign correspondent for The Toronto Star.  He meets James Joyce and Ezra Pound,  Gertrude Stein becomes his mentor.  

September 1923 - He and his wife return to Toronto. Hemingway misses Paris and they return January 1924

 By June  1925 he meets  F. Scott Fitzgerald and formed an on and off friendship marked by some discord 

March 1928 - His second wife wants to return to America so he does

Hemingway returns to France June of 1944 as a War Correspondent.  On August 25th  he enters Paris with the American Army.

After The war he returns to America but Will come back with his third wife in 1948

October 1954.  He received The Nobel Prize.

In October of 1956 he returns to Paris, staying at The Ritz

July 2, 1961 - dies Ketchum, Idaho

“My Old Man” was one of very first Short Stories Hemingway published.   Set in Paris, it is narrated by a young American man.  His father is a jockey.  They ride hordes together, hang out in cafes that horse racing people frequent.  They drink a lot.  Hemingway gave me a sense of horse racing in Paris.  The story ends in tragedy.

This is an historicallly interesting story.  Hemingway is just starting to learn his craft.

F.Scott Fitzgerald 

F. Scott Fitzgerald was the author of four novels and 164 Short Stories 

Born: September 24, 1896 - St. Paul, Minnesota 

1920 to 1940 - Married to Zelda Fitzgerald 

April 1924 - With Zelda he moves to Paris

The Great Gatsby is published in April of 1925,  initially the reviewers were unkind.  To me the last ten pages are among the most  transcendently beautiful I have ever read.  He completed it while living on the French Rivera.

From 1924 to 1926 they will alternate between Paris and the French Rivera with stays in Rome

He becomes friends with numerous American expatriates including Ernest Hemingway 

October, 1926.  He and Zelda move to Hollywood where he begins a career as a screen writer 

Dies:  December 21, 1940 - Hollywood, California 

“Babylon Revisited”, opens in the Ritz Bar in Paris, Charles Wilson is talking to the bartender, the stock market crashed not long ago, about the days when Paris was full of rich Americans living an alcohol fuel stock market money funded life of non-stop partying.  He runs into a still rich American couple he used to spend time with.  This turns out to be a very unfortunate meeting for him.He has himself returned to Paris from the USA.  Much of the focus of the story is on how the Depression has changed the behavior of Americans in Paris. Most Parisians are glad many of the once rich Americans have gone home. 

Charles used to be an extreme drinker and party goer, living the life of the rich in the Roaring Twenties.  He now has one drink a day. He lost his money in the market crash, his wife died, he gave up custody of his daughter to her sister-in-law. He now  has a job lined up in Prague and wants to regain custody of his daughter.  He plans for his sister to join them to help out.

His sister-in-law blames Charles for her sister’s death.  One night Charles saw his wife kissing  another man at a party. He leaves her out in the snow. After this she develops pneumonia and dies.  She was evidently a  serious alcoholic and her sister blamed Charles for this.

The daughter Honoria wants to go live with her father.  His sister-in-law overcomes her initial trepidation at the idea, being convinced Charles is reformed, agrees to let him have his daughter.  All seems going well when the friends he met at the Ritz Bar stop by to see him at the house of his sister-in-law.  They are drunk and invite Charles to go to a party with them.  I will leave the conclusion untold but it is not a happy ending.

The movie, Midnight in Paris, features Ernest Hemingway and the Fitzgeralds.  I found it fun to watch it, on Amazon 
Prime Video.

Mel u

Saturday, August 1, 2020

The Reading Life Review July 2020

Column One

1. Patrick Modiano - France - Nobel Prize Winner
2. Neera Kashrap - India - Neera Kashyap has published a book of short stories for young adults, ‘Daring to dream’ (Rupa & Co.) and contributed to five prize-winning anthologies for Children’s Book Trust. As a writer of short fiction, poetry, essays and book reviews, her work has appeared/is forthcoming in leading South Asian journals which include Kitaab, Papercuts, Out of Print Magazine and Blog, Muse India & Indian Literature.
3. Marc Wilson - UK - author Marc Chagall 
4. Kate Williams - UK - historical biography 

Column 2

1. Pamela Binnings Ewen - USA- author Coco Chanel- A Novel and other highly regarded historical novels
2. Leonora Carrington - UK to Mexico - Surealist.  Artist and writer
3. Chava Rosenfarb - Poland to Canada - one of The very best post WW Two Yiddish language writers. Featured on our side bar 
4. Henry James - USA to England 

Column 3

1. Shirley Hazzard - Australia to USA - author Transit of Venus 
2. Edith Wharton - USA to France 
3. Catherine Hewitt - UK - historian focused on 19th century France 
4. Brian Kirk - Ireland - featured Seven times on The Reading Life -Brian Kirk is a poet, short story writer, playwright and novelist from Dublin, Ireland. His work has appeared in the Sunday Tribune, Crannog, The Stony Thursday Book, Revival, Boyne Berries, Wordlegs and various anthologies

Column 4

1. Mavis Gallant - Canada to France
2. Elizabeth Taylor - UK -  author of 11 novels and numerous exquiste Short Stories - A read through of her work is planned
3. Alice Adams - USA - much more coming on her Short Stories

Birth Countries of Featured Writers

1. UK - 5
2. USA-  4
3. France - 1
4. Poland - 1
5. Australia- 1
6. Ireland - 1
7. Canada - 1

Five of the authors immigrated from their home countries.

11 works by women were featured, four by men.

8 deceased writers were featured, 7 living

Only two writers were featured for the first time.  Mel wants more new to The Reading Life writers to be featured going forward.

The Reading Life is a multicultural
book blog, committed to Literary Globalism

Blog Stats

Since inception there has been 6,078,987 page views

As of yesterday there were 3776 posts online.

The most viewed posts for July were

1. “Ghosts” by Edwidge Danticat
2. Flush - A Biography by Virginia Woolf
3. “The Flood” by Thakazhi Sivasnka
4. “Water Child” by Edwidge Danticat
5. “The Auspicious Visit” by Rabindranath Tagore

Home Countries of Visitors 

USA, India, Turkmenistan, UK, Russia, Canada, 
Philippines and France 

We are glad to see so many visitors from Turkmenistan.  

Future Plans and Hopes for the next three months

Mel hopes to complete two long novels he began to read when the Quarantine began for him on March 3, A Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil and The Recognitions by William Gaddis as well as novels by Cynthia Ozick, Elizabeth Taylor and Ivy Compton-Burnett.  We are planning to feature two short story writers a week who have not yet been featured on The Reading Life.

Longer term Mel will continue reading along with Buried in Print through the short stories of Mavis Gallant.  In time he hopes to read collections of short stories by Alice Adams, Elizabeth Taylor, Shirley Hazzard  and possibly Nancy Hale.  

There are  over 200 Yiddish translations in queue.  

Mel will continue reading on in Holocaust related works and quality narrative non-fiction.

Review books.  To those who have sent review books, please be patient.

To all our readers, these are dark times.  Reading at least a little everyday can help you.  Consider reading maybe two short stories a week.  To our fellow book bloggers, among the greatest readers in the world, keep blogging.

To those who comment on posts, you help keep us going.

To Max u thanks for you very much appreciated Amazon Gift Cards

One day the Pandemic will be over.  Through reading we can time travel and visit countries now forbidden.  Reading protects people from cognitive decline.  Rich, poor or in between reading will enrich your life, keep away boredom and loneliness.  

Oleander Bousweau 

Friday, July 31, 2020

Last Love - A Set in Paris Short Story by Chava Rosenfarb - translated from the Yiddish by Goldie Morgentaler - 2004

 Last Love - A Set in Paris Short Story by Chava Rosenfarb - translated from the Yiddish by Goldie Morgentaler - 2004 

This work is included in the collection Survivors

During Paris in July 2019 I posted on a short story, “Greenhorn”,
by Chava Rosenfarb about a Holocaust survivor who spent time in 
 Paris at a displaced persons camp after liberation, later moving to Montreal where he was called a “greenhorn”.  I also posted on three stories by her friend Blume Lempel, who loved Paris but knew she had to leave to survive.  Paris played a big part in the creative life and aspirations of Ashkenazi Jews.  This year I saw this in Marc Chagall by Jonathan Wilson in which he explains how Chagall’s painting of Eastern European settings were transformed by Paris.  Yiddish artists were transformed by Paris while reshaping modern art.

Chava Rosenfarb 

Born - February 9, 1923 - Lódz, Poland

February 1940 - Jewish citizens are impounded in the Łódź Ghetto by the Germans.  When it was liquidated in August 1944 some 220,000 thousand had died

August 23, 1944 - Chava Rosenfarb, her younger sister and her mother were sent to Auschwitz.  As slave laborers, they built houses for Germans.  From there they were transferred to Bergen-Belsen.  The camp was liberated on April 15, 1945 by British and Canadian forces.  All survived.

After recovering from Typhoid, she discovered her father had died while being transported to Auschwitz. Eventually she  relocates to Belgium.  

1950 - emigrates to Canada and begins to write extensively in Yiddish.

1970 Publishes The Tree of Life - set in The Lodz Ghetto, it is considered an essential work of Holocaust Literature 

January 30, 2011 - dies in Lethbridge, Canada

“Lost Love” can only be read in the collection Survivors. The stories focus on Jews who have immigrated to Canada.

I am very glad to be  reading a work by Chava Rosenfarb for Paris in July 2020.   This story will not be accessible to many people so I am just going to brief.

The story centers on a sculpturer living in Paris.  He is involved in relationships with two women.  One is his age, late forties and one twenty years younger.  His artistic work is enhanced by the magnificent art work he sees on his walks in Paris.  The older woman has memories of lost Parisian love from many years ago.  He has a deeper love for the older woman though he rarely sleeps with her.  She has a terminal illness.  She asks him to find her a young man to have sex with.  At first he is appalled and hurt.  Then he does find her a man who agrees.  While he is having sex with her, she dies.  As you might imagine this devastated both men. The older man is so upset he moves to Montreal.

Rosenfarb, I do not as of now think she was ever in Paris after the war, beautifully describes the impact of Paris on the persons in the story.

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.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

I Love You Now Leave Me Alone - A Short Story by Brian Kirk - June 2020

I Love You Now Leave Me Alone  - A Short Story by Brian Kirk - June 2020

You may read today’s story here.

Gateway To Brian Kirk on The Reading Life.  Be sure To read his very insightful Q and A Session.

In March 2013 for Irish Short Story Month Three I posted on a very well done story by Brian Kirk, “The Shawl”, my first encounter with his work,  that goes deeply into how money can govern  a romantic relationship.

“The Shawl" by Brian Kirk has a great deal to tell us about how money permeates our relationships and can be too important in determining self esteem if we have no  anchor in life. It is a story to which  anyone who was once riding high on what they thought was an endless wave of prosperity can directly relate.   Women may wonder what they would do if the same thing happened in their relationship and men will wonder what their partner might do. 

 Some time ago I read in a Japanese novel (I cannot recall the name of it) showing that when a man loses his money, often his relationship with the woman in his life takes a down turn or ends.   The man will quickly think, "OK I am broke so she left me".   In fact it is often the man does not have the strength or the inner resources to live with out his money propping up his ego and he behaves in a way calculated to drive the woman away so he can then tell himself that this shows she never loved him.  Of course then the woman who leaves will also wonder about her own values

It is wonderful stories like this that have kept me following Kirk’s work for seven years.

“I Love You Now Leave Me Alone” is told by a widow with grown children.  I thought the depiction of the relationships was wonderfully realized.  You see how time has changed things as the mother tries to develop here own life, no longer living really near her children.  Her children are trying to do their duty.

“One of them always calls when I’m busy. Either I’m in the bath or sitting down to a supper of smoked mackerel and brown bread when the phone bursts into life. From the moment I answer I can tell that they want to ring off. I often consider telling them it’s okay – I’m okay – that I feel the same, but I never do. They would be horrified, as much by my lack of maternal feeling as by the knowledge that I fully understand their haste to end the conversation.
‘How are you, Mom?’ they ask.
‘Fine. I’m fine,’ I say.
‘Are you sure?’
‘Yes, I’m sure.’
‘I just worry about you, that’s all. Off on your own, miles away from everyone you know.’
‘I like being on my own.’
‘And anyway, I’m not always on my own; I have friends here too.’
‘But it’s not the same since you moved.’
‘Of course, it’s the same. I’m just further away.’
But I don’t mind the phone calls too much – they never last long. And I always make it easy for them to extricate themselves: I have something in the oven, there’s someone at the door, my show is starting on TV. To be honest, I don’t watch much TV at all. Once – just for mischief – I kept my son, Jamie, on the phone when I knew he was in a hurry to be somewhere else.
‘I suppose I should go, let you get on with things…’ he said.”

The mother senses sometimes they are in a hurry on the phone.  There is a lot of emotional chain pulling in most relationships of mothers to their adult children and Kirk depicts this perfectly.

We learn about the lives of the children.  The daughter is in a same-sex relationship which the mother totally accepts.  Her son is married with children.

The children and widows both have a hard time of it when the mother begins to date a man her age.  She doesn’t really know much about dating anymore.  She seeks but is trepidatious about intimate contact.

“I Love You Now Leave Me Alone” will delight all lovers of relationship centered source stories.  Those of us who have been in the situation of either the mother or the children will for sure be drawn to reflect on their experiences.

I hope to follow Brian Kirk’s  work for a long time.

Brian Kirk is a poet and short story writer from Dublin. His first poetry collection After The Fall was published by Salmon Poetry in 2017. His poem “Birthday” won the Listowel Writers’ Week Irish Poem of the Year at the An Post Irish Book Awards 2018. His short fiction chapbook It’s Not Me, It’s You won the inaugural Southword Fiction Chapbook competition and was published by Southword Editions in 2019. His novel for children The Rising Son was published in 2015 He blogs at

There is a detailed bio and a list of his publications at

Mel u

Monday, July 27, 2020

Harold - The First Short Story of Shirley Hazzard. - A Parisian Couple on Vacation in Seina - First Published in The New Yorker in 1962

Paris in July 2020 - Hosted by Thyme for Tea

Harold - The First Short Story of Shirley Hazzard.  - A Parisian Couple on Vacation in Seina - First Published in The New Yorker in 1962

Today’s post on one of Australia’s greatest writers is in honor of the host for Paris in July 2020 Thyme for Tea and The Australian Book Bloggers enriching the event by their participation.

“Harold” is included  in Cliff of Falls and other stories and in The Collected Short Stories of Shirley Hazzard

Shirley Hazzard

Born January 30, 1930 Sidney, Australia

1963 to 1994 - Married to Francis Steegmuller - A highly regarded Flaubert scholar (They met at a party hosted by Muriel Spark in New York City.)

The Transit of Venus - 1980 - her most famous book

The Great Fire - 2003 - Natiinal Book Award - Best Novel

Dies - December 12, 2016 - New York City

From The Paris Review - “She has written five novels (The Great Fire, 2003; The Transit of Venus, 1980; The Bay of Noon, 1970; People in Glass Houses, 1967; and The Evening of the Holiday, 1966), a collection of stories (Cliffs of Fall, 1963), a memoir (Greene on Capri, 2000), and two books of nonfiction (Countenance of Truth, 1990 and Defeat of an Ideal, 1973), all of them ablaze with technical perfection and moral poise.”.

My Research indicates she and her husband spent considerable time in Paris but I did not find the exact dates. She was deeply read in French literature.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux in Publishing (September 2020) in Publishing The Collected Short Stories of Shirley Hazzard has done a great service to lovers of very high quality Short Stories.

“Collected Stories includes both volumes of the National Book Award–winning author Shirley Hazzard’s short-story collections—Cliffs of Fall and People in Glass Houses—alongside uncollected works and two previously unpublished stories

“Including twenty-eight works of short fiction in all, Shirley Hazzard’s Collected Stories is a work of staggering breadth and talent. Taken together, Hazzard’s short stories are masterworks in telescoping focus, “at once surgical and symphonic” (The New Yorker), ranging from quotidian struggles between beauty and pragmatism to satirical sendups of international bureaucracy, from the Italian countryside to suburban Connecticut. “. From The Publisher.

“Harold” was her first published Short Story.  William Maxwell was so impressed in his acceptance letter asked her to send them all future stories.

This wonderful story centers on a French family on their annual Holiday at pensione in Siena, Italy.

“Bernard Tourner was as lean and astringent as his wife, Monique, was plump and soft—a dove in her gray dress. For many years they had come from Paris to spend their summers at this pensione, and each morning they would disappear in their little ancient car for an excursion to Arezzo or Volterra, or simply into the Chianti hills, returning as children return from a trip to the seaside, refreshed and exhausted and painfully sunburned.”

Readers of Katherine Mansfield will have fond memories brought to mind by this story of a life in a pensione, watching the interactions of the residents.  Among the other guests are an English couple, there three sons, an Italian painter as well as guests of unknown background.   The guests eat their meals in common.  It seems most are repeat guests.  This year they are joined by a woman and her son, maybe 16.  The son will play an essential part in the close of the story.

Here is The French man contrasts his country versus Italy:

““You see how it is,” said Bernard, with a faint smile. “In this country everything has been done, as it were—even this landscape has been done to the point where one becomes a detail in a canvas. And they all know too much. In Italy one is almost too much at ease, too well understood ; all summer here I feel that nothing new can happen, nothing can surprise or call our capacities into question; that none of us can add anything.” “Does this mean we shan’t see you here next year?” asked Dora, laughing because Bernard had come there for so many years..... “I simply mean that in our countries one must still be prepared for a few surprises, but here all experience is repetition, and that gives one an outrageous sense of proportion. That’s why we feel so comfortable—why we find it so attractive to come here. After all, France is certainly as beautiful as this”—Bernard included the Italian peninsula in a brief gesture.”

Hazzard brings out national identies in a very subtle way.  We see how Parisian couple view Italy and England.

This is is just a perfect story.  I see why William Maxwell wanted more of her work.

Mel u

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Madame de Treymes - A Set in Paris Novella by Edith Wharton - 1907

Madame de Treymes - A Set in Paris Novella by Edith Wharton  - 1907

Edith Wharton was or maybe I can say is, The Grande Dame of American Literature. She published 15 novels, several novellas and eighty five Short Stories as well as travel books.

Born - January 24, 1862 - New York City - her father was very wealthy, descended from early Dutch elite families who received Land grants from The Crown. 

From 1866 to 1872 her family traveled in Europe, visiting Spain, Wharton became  in French, German and Italian.

Upon return to New York, she received no formal education, she begins to read in her father’s extensive library.

In 1881, The Family moves to Europe, her father soon dies.

1883 - Wharton’s mother moves to Paris and stays there until her death in 1901

April 29, 1885 Wharton Marries Edward Robbins, a wealthy man 12 years her senior who shared her love of Europe.  They divorced in 1913 after twenty eight years.  

Between 1886 and  1897, from February to June, she and her husband travel in Europe

1905 - Published The House of Mirth

1911 - Moves Permantly to Paris.  She becomes heavily involved in war work of various sorts.  Unlike most American expats, she never flees France.  She traveled to the front lines and sent reports back to Scribner’s Magazine.  April 18, 1916, the President of France appointed her Chevalier of the  Legion of Honour, the country’s highest award, for her war efforts

After the war, she bought an 18th century house ten miles outside of Paris.  For the rest of her life she would split her time between there and the French Rivera.

1920 - The Age of Innocence is published,
she will receive a Pulitzer Prize in 1921, the first woman to be so honored 

August 11, 1937 dies on her estate at Saint-Brice-sous-.

Like a number of the works of her friend Henry James, Madame de Treymas deals with the relationships of Americans living in Europe to the French. In this work the focus is on the relationship of an American woman, Fanny de Malrive to her French Marquis husband.  Her husband has committed adultery, she wants a divorce but under French law the husband will be allowed to keep the son to pass along the title. She has fallen in love with an American John Durham.  She wants to marry him and return to America, but does not want to lose her son.

Durham meets the sister of the Marquis, Madame Threymas.  She is secretive, very intelligent and herself involved in an illicit relationship.  She suggests to Durham that if he pays her lover’s gambling debts, she can arrange a divorce in which the Marquis gives up the child.  Durham is offended by this and refuses.

In the end Durham goes back to America alone.  The American characters seem more honorable than the French, the French more worldly.

This work is available free as an E book.

Friday, July 24, 2020

The Silent Tree - A Short Story by Neera Kashyap - initially published Mad in Asia Pacific - May 13, 2020

The Silent Tree - A Short Story by Neera Kashyap - initially published Mad in Asia Pacific - May 13, 2020

The Silent Tree - A Short Story by Neera Kashyap - initially published Mad in Asia Pacific - May 13, 2020

In May of this year I made my very fortunate first venture into the work of Neera Kashyap.

I loved her “Leave, Gentle Spirit”, a fascinating story narrated by an American ethnographer living in a small village in the Himalayas. Her mission there is to develop an in-depth understanding of the culture, folkways, religious beliefs and customs of women in the village, she learned to speak Hindi, widely spoken in the area.  As much as possible she lives like the women she is researching..

“Leave, Gentle Spirit" is a wonderful work, deeply informed and wise.  It deals with cultural divisions and gives us a look at life within the Himilayan region

I was delighted to learn that Neera Kashyap has several other stories published in online Journals.  

In “The Silent Tree” we are shown how the death of a husband and father impacts those who survive.  The story opens in an art class:

“Aarav hadn’t liked the art class with the elephant. Suman Ma’am had drawn one out on paper, then cut out its outline and traced it on a bar of soap. Even though Nani had said that the elephant was Ganesha — very strong and lucky for people, Aarav’s drawing had come out all wrong: the body was too thin, the trunk too short, the tail too long. Only its ear had looked good — big, shaped like a heart. Suman Ma’am had used a blunt knife to cut around the outline on the soap, then a paper clip to shave off the extra bits. Hers was a strong soap elephant that Nani would have liked. There hadn’t been enough knives to go around, so Aarav’s elephant had felt weak, more soap than elephant”.

Ever since his fsther recently died in a car accident, Aarav’s mother has been washing her hands over and over (this is a Pandemic story, people are advised to wash their hands a lot).  Aarav has come to hate the smell of soap.  Before his mother leaves for work, she checks five times to be sure the gas is shut and windows locked.  Aarav has come to hate the smell of Lysol.

As he sits in art class he comes to understand his mother’s actions:

“It must have been then that Suman Ma’am’s eyes fell on him in a long glance during art class. He felt the heat rise in the pit of his stomach and suddenly felt what Mama must feel all the time. He didn’t like the heat. It was shame heat — no, not shame heat … fear heat. He knew now and didn’t like it. He didn’t like the fear in Mama either. He suddenly knew she washed her hands to get rid of the fear. She checked on closed windows five times because she was afraid. The same with the gas — if she checked the knob five times, nobody would be gassed to death. The checking didn’t help any. Come to think of it, she did almost everything five times. She even counted five before she switched on the fan. What was it with five?”

At his suggestion, the art class students begin to fashion trees out of plasticine.  Kashyap shows us Aarav’s mother increasing emotional distress impacts him.  It is as if both are trying to erect shields to save them from death.  

The maternal grandmother lives with them.  The ending is very very moving  and real. The elderly grandmother may have saved The  Family.

“The Silent Tree” is very much a Covid 19 Pandemic story.   The News is full of death tolls, advise to wash your hands a lot, keep away from people. An atmosphere of fear is generated. The story has deep insight into a family death can have profound lingering impacts.

I hope to read much more of work of Neera Kashyap.

Neera Kashyap has worked as a newspaper journalist, as researcher and editor on environment and health, and as social and health communications specialist. She has published a book for young adults with Rupa & Co. titled Daring to Dream, 2003. Her stories for children have been included in five prize-winning anthologies published by Children’s Book Trust. As a literary writer of creative essays, poems and short fiction, her work has appeared in various online and print literary journals including Out of Print journal & Blog, Earthen Lamp Journal, The Bombay Literary Magazine, Muse India, Reading Hour and are forthcoming in Indian Literature and Papercuts. She lives in Delhi.

Mel u