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, March 23, 2018

“At The Automat” - A Short Story by Mariam Raskin - February 7, 1966 in Forward, translated from Yiddish by Laura Yaros

Born 1889, in what is now Belarus

Immigrated to USA, 1920, settles in New York City

1922, begins to publish Yiddish Language Short Stories in the Forward to which she will contribute many stories over the next fifty year period

Dies, 1973, New York City.

Mariam Ruskin is best known for her stories about Jewish Women living in New York City.

“In the Automat”, set in New York City centres on a middle aged single woman.  Critics describe Ruskin’s style as  “American Yiddish” meaning lots of American slang creeping into the language.   Here is how the story starts:

“ON A SUMMER’S evening, Miss Posner sat down at a small table in a restaurant to eat her supper after a turbulent day at work. She enjoyed spending an hour or two in the automat. 43 She was a saleslady in a women’s clothing store, and all day she had to stay on her feet and deal with the women customers. Here she could relax. Miss Posner was not in a hurry to go home. She knew that her clean, neat, comfortable room would be waiting for her. She reserved moviegoing for Saturday nights, when she didn’t have to hurry to get up early the next morning and when the whole next day would be a relaxed, leisurely Sunday. Miss Posner enjoyed eating her supper alone upstairs, on the balcony of the automat. It seemed to her that a better class of people sat there.”

Miss Posner always sits alone, upstairs as she feels the people up there are higher class. She loves to speculate about the lives of the people she sees there.  We sense she feels competitive with other women there.  As the story ends she is on the subway home.  There is a lingering submerged sadness to her story.

I could not find an image of Mariam Ruskin, if you can help me on this please leave a comment.

I read this story in s wonderful anthology of Yiddish short fiction,
Have I Got a Story for You - More than a Century of Fiction from the Forward edited by Ezra Glinter with an introduction by Dana Horn. It was a 2016 finalist for the Jewish Book of the Year.   Founded in New York City in 1897, Forward was the most renowned Yiddish newspaper in the world. For generations it brought immigrants news of their homelands, recipes, as well as lots of information about how to get along in America.  It also published many works of Yiddish language fiction by some of the greatest writers in the language.  

(You can learn about the history of Forward on their website 

An Informative Article on Mariam Ruskin.

Mel u

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