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, September 16, 2018

“Ne’ilah” — A Short Story by Rosa Palatnik —Translated from Yiddish by Jessica Kirzan

Very well done bio from The Jewish Women’s Archive Encyclopedia

“Ne’ilah” refers to the closing portion of the liturgy for Yom Kippur

Today’s story is about a deeply rooted cultural divide, the forbidden relationship of a young Jewish woman, the daughter of a rabbi and a goy.

Mariam is the daughter of the rabbi of the shtetl, every young man’s dream.  Kendre is the secretary of local magistrate, handsome and rich if only he were not a goy.

Without ever speaking to Mariam, he is deeply in love.  All he wants is to hear voice.  Palatnik builds an exquiste very visual scene when they at least begin to meet privately.

“Kendre smelled of fresh jasmine and other exhilarating spices. His tight riding pants were rolled above his knees and white calves, and he carried his blue jacket by the collar so that it blew rakishly in the wind. He pierced Miriam’s blushing face with his burning eyes. They were two young, beautiful people amid the budding trees. The stream murmured the deep secrets of creation. Nothing more. She was the rabbi’s daughter, Miriam, and he was a goy, the magistrate’s secretary. But here, among the fragrant grass and fresh hay, under the expansive sky, they were just two warm, beating hearts. Two dream worlds. Nothing more . . .
Miriam was clever, intelligent, and above all enchantingly beautiful. Her collected thoughts were rabbinic pilpul. Her gentle demeanor was modest. Her lyrical voice was like music. Kendre heeded with all of his senses the quietly flowing symphony of her language: “Speak, Miriam, translate with your sweet voice the thoughts of rabbis. For weeks, for months I have dreamed, hoped, waited for this moment. Don’t run away from me now. Come back tomorrow, and the day after. Come back here always. Come, sit here. You can sit as far away as you please. I will just look at you and listen to your melodious voice. Nothing more. Absolutely nothing . . .”
But the beys-medresh students, who loved to hear Miriam’s
sweet voice no less than Kendre did, took notice. They realized that her bewitching voice had been vanishing every day, and they looked for her. The beys-medresh students figured it out. Seek, and you shall find .”

Mariam knows this relationship is a sin to even contemplate.  It comes to a very moving close on Yom Kippur, the highest Holy Day, the day of atonement.

I will leave close untold.  I found it very moving.

I have access to one more of her stories and hope to read it soon.

Rosa Palatnik (1904-1981) was born near Lublin. In 1927 she emigrated to Paris, where she contributed to Yiddish newspapers Di handls-tsaytung and Der parizer paynt. In 1936 she settled in Rio de Janeiro, where she published widely in international Yiddish organs, including Di yidishe prese of Rio, Der nayer moment of São Paolo, Der shpigl of Buenos Aires, Der kontinent and Der veg of Mexico City, Di fraye arbeter-shtime and Morgn-zhurnal of New York and Di goldene keyt of Tel Aviv, composing roughly two hundred short stories.  Some of these stories were later published in her four short-story collections, three of which are available in the Steven Spielberg Digital Yiddish Library. She was awarded the Fishl Bimko Prize in 1954.

The translator, Jessica Kirzane, is a 2017 Yiddish Book Center Translation Fellow.  

from Yiddish Book Center 


Suko said...

Mel, thank you for sharing the link and your thoughts about this short story I plan to read it tonight.

Buried In Print said...

Such good timing for you to be reading this story in the days leading up to the holiday too. I'm glad to hear you have a second story of hers to read as well.