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

Friday, November 8, 2013

"The Golem" by I. L. Peretz - 1893 - The Reading Life Yiddish Literature Project

In Jewish tradition, the golem is most widely known as an artificial creature created by magic, often to serve its creator. The word "golem" appears only once in the Bible (Psalms139:16). In Hebrew, "golem" stands for "shapeless mass." TheTalmud uses the word as "unformed" or "imperfect" and according to Talmudic legend, Adam is called "golem," meaning "body without a soul" (Sanhedrin 38b) for the first 12 hours of his existence. The golem appears in other places in the Talmud as well. 


"The Golum", a very brief work, is set in the Jewish Ghetto in Prague.  Once again the Christians of Prague are going on violent destructive attacks on the persons and property of people living in the Jewish section of Prague.  Similar to the last story by Peretz on which I posted, "The Pious Cat", "The Golem" is a fable like story designed to teach a moral lesson using traditional images. 

As the goys begin to kill more and more people, the most learned of Rabbis fashions a golem and instructs him to defend the Praque Ghetto.   It goes on a horrible killing spree.   Soon even those he is guarding begin to fear he will wipe out so many goys there will be none of them left to do work on the sabbath day. Just a simple story, maybe partially of wish fulfillment.  

Isaac Leybush Peretz (1852–1915) is one of the most influential figures of modern Jewish culture. Born in Poland and dedicated to Yiddish culture, he recognized that Jews needed to adapt to their times while preserving their cultural heritage, and his captivating and beautiful writings explore the complexities inherent in the struggle between tradition and the desire for progress. This book, which presents a memoir, poem, travelogue, and twenty-six stories by Peretz, also provides a detailed essay about Peretz’s life by Ruth R. Wisse. This edition of the book includes as well Peretz’s great visionary drama A Night in the Old Marketplace, in a rhymed, performable translation by Hillel Halkin.

“If you want to discover the beauty, the depth, the unique wonder of Yiddish literature—read this volume by its Master.”—Elie Wiesel 
(From Yale University Press) 

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