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

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

October 2018 — The Reading Life Review

October Authors 

Row 1

  1. John Dos Passos - USA - Manhattan Transfer 

  1. Sholem Aleichem- Ukraine 

  1. Helen Mayles Shankman- USA - author of They Were Like Family to Me, a marvelous collection of stories set in Poland during WW Two

  1. Clarice Lispector - Brazil - her image is on my Sidebar 

  1. Bruno Schultz -Poland - Holocaust Short Stories, also great painter

  1. Bernard Malamud- USA - Pulitzer Prize Winner

Row 2

  1. Blume Lempel - Ukraine, immigrated to Canada

  1. Yenta Mash - Moldova, immigrated to Israeli, Yiddish Short Stories 

  1. TADEUSZ Borowsky - Poland - author This Way to,The Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen, Short stories about Auschwitz 

  1. Chaim Grade and his wife Inna - born in and wrote about Vilna,Lithuania, immigrated to New York City

  1. Neil Perry Gordon - U.S.A - very good debut novel, The Cobbler’s Tale

  1. Esther Singer Kreitman - Poland, immigrated to England 

Row 3

  1. Janet H Swinney - UK - a very talented short story writer

  1. Jeremy Dauber - U.S.A - author of The Remarkable Life and After Life of Sholem Aleichem and Jewish Comedy

  1. Rikudah Potash - Poland, immigrated to Israel - Yiddish language writer of Short Stories on Yeminite Jews in Israel

  1. Chava Rosenfarb - Poland, immigrated to Canada - Multi genre Yiddish Language writer -  added her image to my side bar this month

  1. Ida Fink - Poland, Immigrated to Israel, very poigant Holocaust Short Stories 

  1. Isaiah Spiegel- Poland, immigrated to Israel, powerful short stories set in the Łódź Ghetto

Birth Countries

  1. Poland - 8
  2. U.S.A - 4
  3. Ukraine - 2
  4. Brazil - 1
  5. Molodova - 1
  6. Lithuania - 1
  7. UK - 1

Four authors are living, fourteen have passed on.

Nine women, nine men.  Not planned just happened

Eight made their first appearance on The Reading Life, ten are old friends.

Given The anti-immigrant hysteria being used by venal politicians all over the World, a few months ago i began tracking  authors who immigrated.  In October, ten authors left their birth country.  All were exemplary law abiding productive citizens though most arrived near destitute.

Blog Stat

There are 3428 posts online.

There has been 5,443,410 page views 

The most viewed post was on an Indonesia authored Short Story.  After that three stories are pre-WW Two works by authors from The Philippines.  Story five was from India.  

Top home countries:

U.S.A, Philippines, India, Ukraine, UK, Russia, France, and Indonesia

November Plans

We Will once again be happily participating in German Literature Month.  Out of respect for the great Yiddish literature tradition we Will not comingle posts on Yiddish authors with writers from a culture that tried to destroy all traces of Yiddish culture and murdered six million Yiddish readers, thus in November there Will be no posts on Yiddish Literature.

My great thanks to Max u for his kind Gift Amazon Gift Cards.

To those who take The trouble to leave comments, you Help keep US going.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

“Earth” - A Short Story by Isaiah Spiegel - From Ghetto Kingdom Tales of the Łódź Ghetto - 1940

My post on “The Ghetto Dog” by Isaiah Spiegel includes a link to a marvelous reading of the story by Laureen Becall

Prussia, the ruler of Germany, was always an enemy of the intellect, of books, of the Book of Books—that is, the Bible—of Jews and Christians, of humanism and Europe. Hitler’s Third Reich is only so alarming to the rest of Europe because it sets itself to put into action what was always the Prussian project anyway: to burn the books, to murder the Jews, and to revise Christianity."  Joseph Roth, 1933"

There is, for me at least, a huge elephant in the room when one talks of the very real glories of German Culture, from Goethe, the great novels and music and Ulm Cathedral.  That elephant is the Holocaust.  Some will say every culture has a dark side and try to rationalise things.  Others, as does Joseph Roth and I, see it as more than that.  There are strange connections in history.  Not long ago I read a very scholarly biography of the German Emperor Frederick the Great, worshiped by the Nazis for his military bravado.   The main thesis of the book was that Frederick became a warrior king to prove his father, who rightly saw that Frederick was  a homosexual, was wrong.  From this the Prussian ethic developed and the Nazis state was derivative from Frederick’s trying to show his father  he was not gay.

.  Jews were treated as sexual deviants and homosexuality was criminal, though of course many Nazis were homosexuals.  Hitler raved about the decadence of the Weimar Republic.  

Yiddish literature derives from a thousand year old culture based in Eastern Europe and Russia.    No culture that I’m familiar with cherished the Reading Life more.  The Holocaust was in part a war on those who loved books, knowledge and Reading.  Germans tried very hard to destroy this culture, it was not an aberation.  Joseph Roth is right.  

Of the over three thousand works about which I have posted upon on The Reading Life none are more emotionally powerful than “The Ghetto Dog” by Isaiah Spiegel.  Set in the Łódź Ghetto in Poland (second in size to Warsaw), the story is a great Masterpiece.  Seeking to read more by Spiegel, i recently acquired a second hand copy of his collection of Short Stories, Ghetto Kingdom : Tales of The Lodz Ghetto. (Translated from the  Yiddish by David and Barbara Hirsch, with an introduction by David Hirsch, Northwestern University Press, 1998.  As of today a new copy on Amazon is $14.44, used $1.94.  I admit I was surprised “Ghetto Dog” was not in the collection.)

As “Earth” opens a stream of peasants is in a rush out of Lodz.  The couple the story centers on are told they are fleeing just arrived Germans.  The older childless couple does not want to leave the home they have occupied for years, plus they have cows and dogs they Love.  The man, a Jew, ventures into town.  Young German soldiers force him to dance, stabbing his feet with bayonets.

The ending is tragic.

From The Publisher.

Ghetto Kingdom
Tales of the Lodz Ghetto

Isaiah Spiegel was an inmate of the Lodz Ghetto from its inception in 1940 until its liquidation in 1944. While there, he wrote short stories depicting Jewish life in the ghetto and managed to hide them before he was deported to Auschwitz. After being freed, he returned to Lodz to retrieve and publish his stories.

The stories examine the relationship between inmates and their families, their friends, their Christian former neighbors, the German soldiers, and, ultimately, the world of hopelessness and desperation that surrounded them. In using his creative powers to transform the suffering and death of his people into stories that preserve their memory, Spiegel succeeds in affirming the humanity and dignity the Germans were so intent on destroying.

About the Author

Isaiah Spiegel was born in the industrial city of Lódz in 1906. After surviving Auschwitz, he immigrated to Israel, where he continued to write stories, novels, poems, and essays.

David H. Hirsch, Professor Emeritus of English and American literature and Judaic studies at Brown University, has translated a variety of Yiddish and Polish texts with Roslyn Hirsch, who escaped the ghetto with her mother in 1943 and remained in hiding until liberation in 1945. She immigrated to the United States in 1949 and is currently working on several translations of Holocaust writers.

Mel u

Monday, October 29, 2018

“Silence” - A 1959 Short Story by TADEUSZ, BOROWSKI - from This Way to The Gas Ladies and Gentlemen

You can read “Silence” here

“This Way to the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen”, his most famous story, can be read here

Tadeusz Borowski (Born 1922 in Zhytonyr, Ukraine, died 1951 in Warsaw, Poland.  He was arrested by the Gestapo in February of 1943, he was not Jewish, as a political prisoner.  His girl friend had recently been arrested and when he went to find her, he was arrested also.  His recently published collection of poetry was labeled as subversive.  He was ultimately sent to Auschwitz as a slave labourer.  Non-Jewish prisoners were often treated better than Jews and Borowski was made a “Kapo”, an inmate with authority over others.  He was assigned to work the rail road receiving docks when a train of new inmates arrived.

“This Way to the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen” is the title story of the collection of  stories based on his time in Auschwitz, he was there for two years. “Silence” is part of this collection.

As of now I do not have a clear understanding of the pre-translation publication history of the stories.  It was first translated into English in 1959 and the very dark humour in his stories is said to have had a large influence on Central European Literature.

“Silence” opens in a men’s barrack in concentration camp just a few days after it was liberated by Americans.  The ex-inmates are getting ready to kill a fellow prisoner who cooperated with the Germans.  Then a young American Army Officer, speaking through an interpreter and accompanied by a member of the prisoners committee formed after liberation tells them that the S.S. and those who helped them, will be punished by the allies.  He asks them not to murder anyone for revenge.   He tells them the SS men are being made to bury the dead.  The ex-inmates are mostly quiet, nodding their heads.

As soon as he leaves, they beat a man to death who had been trying to escape when the American showed up.

I will be reading all the stories in the collection soon.

Mel u

"Remnants of Carnival" by Clarice Lispector (from The Complete ShortStories of Clarice Lipsector, published August, 2015, translated byKatrina Dodson, edited and introduced by Benjamin Moser)

When I first starting reading The Complete Short Stories of Clarice Lispector about four months ago I felt I was witnessing the exploding of a star upon the English language short story world.  I wondered if others would respond as strongly as I did.  Reviews are beginning to appear in top venues.  I have read all those I have seen, all are laudatory and insightful but I feel somehow they don't quite get Clarice.  As I read her stories, and now two of her novels, and admitting  I was under the spell of the ice cold beauty of her youth and the coldness and pain in her eyes as she matured, I wanted to find a way to shout out to short story lovers and writers all over the world to stop what they are doing and read her collection.   

As Toibin says in his review, happiness does not come easy if at all in the works of Clarice, I call her by her first name not out of familiarity but reverence, some of her stories are about how small incidents can haunt us forever and block our hope of being fully at home in the universe.  

Recife in Brazil is considered by afficiados to have the best, wildest most  exuberant of all carnivals. This story is about the involuntary memories of the narrators  first carnival, around age ten.  It draws on the life experiences of Clarice, the impact of her mother's illness and death when she was ten on her life.  A crepe paper dress in the color of a deep red rose is being made for her good friend.  She accepts her family cannot buy her a carnival dress.  She is so happy when there is enough material left for a dress to be made for her.  The friend's parents pay to have it made and it is so beautiful. She is remembering these events of years ago.  Just as she was ready to go to carnival, nearly overwhelmed with the excitement of the event, she cannot go to the carnival because her mother has gotten sicker (Clarice's mother was raped in a porgam in the Ukraine and would after years of illness from syphillis die when she was young.)  The narrator has the burden of guilt of having greatly resented her mother while knowing soon after this she would die.  This is what Carnival now brings to her mind.

In just a few pages  Clarice takes us deeply into the ways memories can flood in and destroy happiness.

Mel u

Sunday, October 28, 2018

“A Satin Coat”. A Short Story by Esther Singer Kreitman - translated from Yiddish by Ellen Cassedy - first published in Ichus: Short Stories [Yikhes (Pedigree)] (London: Narod Press, 1950).

“A Satin Coat”. A Short Story by Esther Singer Kreitman - translated from Yiddish by Ellen Cassedy - first published in Ichus: Short Stories [Yikhes (Pedigree)] (London: Narod Press, 1950).

This is a marvelous story with so much life packed into a few pages.

“The Gliskers had lived in the village since the beginning of time. Yidl Glisker’s store, which had been in the family for generations, supplied the peasants of the surrounding countryside with everything they needed. Yidl ran the business single-handedly. Tall and broad shouldered, he could hold his own against all comers, and for this the local people respected him. He wouldn’t allow his wife in the shop, except when he had to go out of town to replenish his stock. A Jewish woman, Yidl believed, should stay at home and look after the children. That way was best for all concerned. His wife, Rochel, believed just the opposite. But when Yidl said no, he meant no, so she didn’t argue. Instead, she started her own dairy as an outlet for her energies. Yidl didn’t stand in her way. As long as she stayed out of his affairs, he didn’t care what she did. Indeed, he was glad—the milk business gave his three girls something to do. He helped Rochel select several head of cattle, paid for them, and drank a celebratory glass of whiskey with the farmers to seal the deal. Rochel managed her business no less successfully than Yidl. Like him, she took care of everything herself. Alone she milked the cows, warmed the pans of sour milk, lugged the heavy stones used for pressing the cheeses. Alone she churned the butter and sewed the cheese bags. All her daughters did was tend the cows in the field.”

In this marvelous opening sequence we see deeply into the day to day life, marriage and family business of the Gliskers. With three daughters finding suit
 suitable husbands for their daughters is a top priority, given more urgency when the father came on his daughter laying in the field with a neighboring goy youth.  The Gliskers were prosperous but their ways and dress were that of peasants.  The father, who good only just read, hired the son on a noted Talmud to introduce him to the teachings of the Torah.  Soon they were the most prosperous family in their synagogue.  They donated a lot and were given the best seats.  Soon the father felt a need for a satin coat.

A marriage is arranged between the oldest daughter, may 16, and the older son of the Talmud scholar.  The daughter hates the idea.  I don’t want to spoil this story for potential readers but something amazing happens at the wedding.

I read this story in a delighful anthology 

Sandra Bark, Editor, Francine Prose, Introduction by , intro. by Francine Prose.

ESTHER SINGER KREITMAN was born in Bilgoray, Poland, in 1891. Her brothers, I. J. and I. B. Singer, became internationally acclaimed writers. Unlike them, she had no formal schooling; I. B. Singer’s story “Yentl the Yeshiva Boy” is thought to have been based on her unrealized desire for education. Her marriage to an Antwerp diamond cutter ended in 1926, after which she lived in Warsaw and, finally, London. Her stories and serialized novels were widely published in the Yiddish press. Der sheydim tants [The Devils’ Dance], an autobiographical novel, was published in 1936 and reissued in 1983 as Deborah. Brilyantn [Diamonds], another novel, appeared in 1944 and Yikhes [Pedigree], a collection of short stories, in 1950. She died in London in 1954.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

"Waters of the World" by Clarice Lispector. ( From The Complete ShortStories of Clarice Lispector. (2015)

"Waters of the World" can be read in translation here

Most of the press reviews of The Complete Short Stories of Clarice Lispector, translated by Katrina Dodson, edited-and introduced by Benjamin Moser, 2015) say the stories can be seen as an account of the life of a woman, from her early twenties down to her ending years.  Much is made of the once stunning beauty of Clarice.  If someone speaks only this in talking of the stories collectively it tells me they no doubt only read a few of the 85 stories.  My main purpose in posting on "The Waters of the World" is to let my readers know the great translator Katrina Dodson has kindly placed this story online.

This is as good a short story as I have yet read about the primal power of the sea.  One of the deeper themes in Lispector is the ability of the strength of raw nature to bring us a sense of near cosmic connection with our atavistic nature. 

"And now she steps onto the sand. She knows she is glistening with water, and salt and sun. Even if she forgets a few minutes from now, she can never lose all this. And she knows in some obscure way that her streaming hair is from a castaway. Because she knows—she knows she has created a danger. A danger as ancient as the human being."

Mel u

Friday, October 26, 2018

“Ingathering of Exiles” by Yenta Mash. - 1993 - translated from Yiddish by Ellen Cassedy

Ingathering of Exiles can be read on Words Without Borders

“Ingathering of Exiles” by Yenta Mash. - 1993  - translated from Yiddish by Ellen Cassedy

1922 born Zguiritse, Moldova

1977 immigrated to Israel

2013 dies Haifa, Israel

She begins to write upon Immigration 

Set in Haifa, Israel, “Ingathering of Exiles” is a potrait of a street and the people who live and have shops there.  It is not the fanciest street in Haifa but it just might be the most interesting.   I loved the stories of the different merchants.  Here is a sample of this marvelous story.  

“don’t know about other cities, but in Haifa the street called Kibbutz Galuyot—Ingathering of Exiles—is definitely worthy of the name. Other cities may have bestowed the name when the street was still under construction, without knowing whether it would turn out to be a good fit. In Haifa, though, the street was already in its glory when it got its name. If they’d called it Kibbutz Olamot—Ingathering for Eternity—that wouldn’t have been wrong either. The street must date back to the Ten Commandments, maybe even back to the Creation. Certainly it’s as chaotic as the dawn of time—a bedlam of languages from all corners of the earth. People quarrel in Hebrew to get a point across; they fling insults in Russian to show how important they are; and to pull out all the stops they curse in Yiddish. Sometimes a few punches are even thrown, but by now the scrappiest old fighters have passed on, and these days people don’t want to get their hands dirty. When a skirmish breaks out, most of the time the police don’t even hear about it; the parties patch it up among themselves and move on.”

This story now is among sixteen Short stories by Mesh translated by Ellen Cassedy and published in a collection entitled On The Landing.  I hope to read all these stories.  There is an additional story of Mesh on line courtesy The Yiddish Book Center and I next post on that.

Ellen Cassedy, the author of We Are Here, is a frequent speaker about the Holocaust, Lithuania, and Jewish culture.  Her book began when she set out to connect with her Jewish family roots.  In a searing terrain of memory and moral dilemmas, she explored how people in Lithuania – Jews and non-Jews alike – are engaging with their Nazi and Soviet past.  In the end, she found hope for a more tolerant future.
We Are Here is the winner of numerous awards and was shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing.
Ellen’s Tips for Writers appear monthly on
Her play, Beautiful Hills of Brooklyn, celebrates the spare beauty of a small but important life. Based on the diary of an actual elderly woman, it was adapted into a short film that won numerous awards and qualified for an Academy Award nomination.
Ellen was awarded the 2012 Translation Prize by the  Yiddish Book Center with her colleague, Yermiyahu Aaron Taub.  Her translations appear in the magazine of the Yiddish Book Center and in Beautiful as the Moon, Radiant as the Stars: Jewish Women in Yiddish Stories (Warner Books).
Ellen is a former columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, a former speechwriter in the Clinton Administration, and the author of two books for working women. Her work has appeared in Hadassah, The Jewish Daily Forward, the Huffington Post, Ha’aretz, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Lilith, Bridges, Polin, and Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies.

Yenta Mash (1922–2013) grew up in the region once known as Bessarabia (present-day Moldova), renowned as a lively polyglot area and a flourishing center of Jewish culture. In 1941, she was exiled to the Siberian gulag by Soviet forces. She endured seven years of hard labor before leaving the prison camp and making her way to Chisinau, then the capital of the Moldavian SSR. In 1977, in her fifties, Mash immigrated to Israel and settled in Haifa, where, she began to write and to publish. Her short stories were published in Yiddish journals on both sides of the Atlantic, and her work was collected in four volumes published in Israel. She was honored with Israel’s Itsik Manger Prize in 1999 and with the Dovid Hofshteyn Prize in 2002...from Words Without Borders

From “Kibbutz Galuyot” in Meshane mokem (A Change of Place). © 1993 Yenta Mash. By arrangement with the author’s estate. Translation © Ellen Cassedy. 

Thursday, October 25, 2018

“Father’s Last Escape”. - A Short Story by Bruno Schulz- from his collection The Street of Crocadiles - 1934- translated from Polish by Celina Weinlewska

“Father’s Last Escape”. -  A Short Story by Bruno Schulz- from his collection The Street of Crocadiles - 1934- translated from  Polish by Celina Weinlewska

He was born July 12,1892

He was murdered on November 19, 1942

Both events happened in Drohobycz, in Galacia, Austria

In 1939, after the Nazi and Soviet invasion of Poland in World War II, Drohobych was occupied by the Soviet Union. At the time, Schulz was known to have been working on a novel called The Messiah, but no trace of the manuscript survived his death. When the Germans launched their Operation Barbarossa against the Soviets in 1941, they forced Schultz into the newly formed Drohobycz Ghetto along with thousands of other dispossessed Jews, most of whom perished at the Belzec extermination camp before the end of 1942. 

A Nazi Gestapo officer, Felix Landau, however, admired Schulz's artwork and extended him protection in exchange for painting a mural in his Drohobych residence. Shortly after completing the work in 1942, Schulz was walking home through the "Aryan quarter" with a loaf of bread, when another Gestapo officer, Karl Günther,[9][10] shot him with a small pistol, killing him.[5] This murder was in revenge for Landau's having murdered Günther's own "personal Jew." Subsequently, Schulz's mural was painted over and forgotten – only to be rediscovered in 2001...from Wikepedia.

There is a wonderful Short story based on his mural work in They Were Like Family to Me by Helen Maryles Shankman

Schultz is regarded as one of The greatest 20th century writers of fiction in Polish.

I was delighted to find a very well done Reading of this story on Youtube (playing time about 12 minutes.)

Most of Schultz’s stories focus on his immediate family.  There is his eccentric in his own world father, the quiet mother, the down to Earth live in maid Adele, and Uncle Karol, a scholar of linguistics that rarely leaves his room but to eat. His work is very much involved with magic realism, surrealism and readers of this story Will jump to see the influence of Kafka, as did I.  (Schultz read Polish and German but not Yiddish. I dont know if he read Kafka or not.)

As this story opens, the family shop has been closed, the father has died and the servant girl Adele was on a ship bound for America which they heard the Germans sunk. In any case she was never heard from again.  The new servant girl sometimes makes soup from old paper clippings and clue.  It is not very appetizing.

A large crab appears at the house.  The narrator and his mother insist he is the father come back.  They never retreat from this idea.

This is a very much a darkly funny story.  It shows the extremes grief can push us into.  The insanity of the Holocaust 

There are other stories by Schultz on YouTube, I will read them one day, I hope.

Avant Bousweau - 

Consultant Upon The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire