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, February 16, 2014

"The Chair" by Lamed Shapiro (1934, translated by Rueben Barcovithch)

Nicola Sacco (April 22, 1891 – August 23, 1927) and Bartolomeo Vanzetti(June 11, 1888 – August 23, 1927) were Italian-born anarchists who were convicted of murdering two men during the robbery of a shoe factory in Massachusetts,  United States in 1920.  They were electrocuted.  There was and still is a lot of controversy surrounding their executions.  They became iconic figures to those on the left wing of American politics who felt they were falsely convicted due to their political beliefs.  Joan Baez recorded a song about them.  

"The Ballad of Sacco and Vanzetti" by Joan Baez

Father, yes, I am a prisoner
Fear not to relay my crime
The crime is loving the forsaken
Only silence is shame

And now I'll tell you what's against us
An art that's lived for centuries
Go through the years and you will find
What's blackened all of history

Against us is the law
With its immensity of strength and power
Against us is the law
Police know how to make a man
A guilty or an innocent

Against us is the power of police
The shameless lies that men have told
Will ever more be paid in gold
Against us is the power of the gold
Against us is racial hatred
And the simple fact that we are poor

My father dear, I am a prisoner
Don't be ashamed to tell my crime
The crime of love and brotherhood
And only silence is shame

With me I have my love, my innocence
The workers and the poor
For all of this I'm safe and strong
And hope is mine

Rebellion, revolution don't need dollars
They need this instead
Imagination, suffering, light and love
And care for every human being

You never steal, you never kill
You are a part of hope and life
The revolution goes from man to man
And heart to heart
And I sense when I look at the stars
That we are children of life, death is small

"The Flight" takes place right after the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti.  It begins in a cafeteria in Boston, a place where all sorts of strongly left oriented men of all sorts spent their time.  Many identified themselves as communists or socialists.  As Yiddish socialists and communists began to feel at home in America, they became involved with left wing zealots from many different countries.  We see this in the cast of characters in the cafeteria.  One of the more interesting characters is Jake, an African American.  His dream that he is being executed in the electric chair by the governor of Massachusetts was disturbingly real.  Shapiro made me feel I was there in the cafeteria.   

I am finding strong similarities in the work of Saadat Hasan Manto and Lamed Shapiro.  I will try to talk about this more as I read on in their short stories.

Mel u

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