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

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

"Elijah the Prophet" by Shalom Aleicham Project 196 Ukraine

"Elijah the Prophet" by Shalom Aleicham (1910 in translation 1922, 12 pages)

Project 196

Country 8 of 196
Shalom Aleichem

  1. Georgia 
  2. Canada
  3. U. S. A.
  4. The Republic of Korea
  5. Antigua and Barbuda 
  6. Haiti
  7. Trinidad and Tobag 
  8. Ukraine
f you are an author and want to represent your country, please contact me.  If you want to do a guest post on your favorite story for the feature please contact me also.  

If you are a publisher that has an anthology that is done in the 196 spirit, please contact me as I will be spotlighting appropriate collections.  

At first I thought I was setting myself an impossible task but a bit of research has made me optimistic  that I can find a short story from all 196 countries in the world.   I feel this part of the project will be completed.   In a much more challenging perhaps impossible project, I also want to publish on my blog a contemporary short story from an author from each of the 196 countries.  

Shalom Aleichem (pen name of Sholem Naumovich Rabinovich, Ukraine 1859 to 1916) is the most famous writer in Yiddish.  (Yiddish is started as a language in what is now Germany when elements of Hebrew and Aramaic were added to the German dialects of the time. It evolved into a trans-national language for Eastern European Jews).  He is most remembered now for his creation of a character on which the father in Fiddler in the Roof is based.    (There is a good article on his life and importance in Wikipedia)   He left the Ukraine to escape the pogroms directed against Jews but his huge body of work is devoted to cherishing and keeping alive the cultural traditions of the Jewish communities of the Ukraine and Russian.

Shalom Aleicham is very much an old fashioned story teller, his work contains no traces of modernism and it will probably be cherished long after many of the modern masters are relegated to academia.  "Elijah the Prophet" is based on the folklore of the Eastern European Jewish culture.  The story is told by the only son of a wealthy man-his parents had seven children but they all died so he is completely doted over and way overprotected, or at least he thinks so.   His father is a money changer, swapping the currency of one country for another.   The worse thing a boy can do is to fall asleep during Seder, a feast that marks the start of the holiday of Passover.   Children are told that if they fall asleep during Seder then Elijah the Prophet will come and take you away forever in a large bag he carries just for that purpose.  Our narrator does fall asleep and Elijah shows up just like the legends says he will.   The story ends in a very open ended way and the boy is left with a moral dilemma.

You can find this story and others by Shalom Aleicham at Project Gutenberg.  

The Ukraine, with a population of 45 million has a long history of being controlled by stronger neighbors.  The country has long been under the domination of Russia from which it declared independence in 1990.  During WWII there were vicious enthusiastically  supported by the Ukrainians extermination programs aimed at Jews and Roma.

I think Project 196 will next stop in West Africa, in the Cameroons.

1 comment:

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Hi Mel, I see that your Project 196 is off to a flying start and I'm already savouring your posts on this seemingly difficult challenge. I especially liked the one on Trinidad & Tobago featuring Naipaul's "Bogart." Didn't know about it.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and your family, Mel! I hope you have a great year.