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

Sunday, November 3, 2013

"Night" by Lamed Shapiro 1920 -The Reading Life Yale Yiddish Collection Project

"Night" is a beautiful deeply moving, lyrical account of being on the deck on a steam ship from Europe to America in 1918 or so.  (This is my third post, hopefully of many more to come on Lamed, there is background information on him and Yiddish literature and culture in my prior posts and there is a wealth of material online.  My thinking as a blogger is that many of my highly literate readers were educated in south Asian academies with little instruction on Yiddish literature so I have and will continue to make what I hope are well chosen citations to inform them and myself.)

The passage from the old world where you understood the rules, especially if you are from a small town where you knew everyone, to America where you might arrive not knowing anyone, without speaking English and in clothes that marked you out as an immigrant,  was one of great emotional power.  You were on a ship of Babel where many languages you did not know were spoken. The sea seemed endless, it power a reflection of the power of God it is unfathomable depth.  Lamed brings this out beautifully in "Night".  It is not really a traditionally structured story so much as a prose poem.  It made be think of Whitman.  You can sense the tremendous excitement and the trepidation of the narrator.   The passage was also a time to think deeply, there was not a lot to do on these ships.

I offer my thanks to Yale University Press for their very generous gift of books that makes my project possible. 

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