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

Thursday, August 22, 2019

A Jewish Refugee in New York - A Novel by Kadya Molodvsky - 1942- translated from Yiddish by Anne Norwich - 2019

Kadya Molodovsky

May 10, 1894 - Bercze, now Belarus, then part of The Russian Empire

1935 - moves to NYC with husband

1942 - publishes A Jewish Refuge in New York (previously published in serial

1949 to 1952 - resides in Israel, with her husband 

March 23, 1945 - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

A Jewish Refugee in New York, is presented as if it were a journal of 107 entries beginning on December 15, 1939 and ending on October 6, 1940.
It tells story of Rieke Zilberg’s first ten months in New York City.  Rieke, twenty years old, left Lublin, Poland after her mother was killed in a German bombing raid but before Jewish residents were sent to concentration camps or to work as slave laborers.  She goes to live with her aunt.  She arrives speaking no English.  Left behind in Lublin are her fathe, brother and a boyfriend she was expected to marry,  

Molodovsky does a very good job letting us experience her first days in New York City, living with her mother’s sister.  She feels a bit lost, she misses her mother very much.  Before her arrival the aunt had a young African American woman doing household work.  Soon after Rieke’s arrival her aunt tells her the maid has teken sick and Rieke will need to temporarily fill in for her.  About a month later Rieke puts in her journal that someone saw the maid working in a store.  New arrivals are called “Greenhorns”.  Rieke slowly begins to learn of the abuse of Jews back in Lublin.

One of her first concerns is to get a job, to earn some American money.  She has no job skills but gets a first job as a helper to a seamstress. Everything is facilitated through contacts. As i have learned in nonfiction works, immigrants from Lublin have an association and help new arrivals. She finds the first of a series of jobs.  She knows she has to learn English and she wants to get her own place. Her aunt and others tell her that at age twenty she will soon be seen as an “old maid”.  She makes friends New York City, a very fast paced place in comparison to Lublin.  She worries more and more about her father and brother as she gets word about actions of the Germans.  

The journal entries are all very well done.  We see her gradually learning English. She rents her own place. She acquires a suitor, an Americanized immigrant.  Her Lublin boyfriend has moved to Palestine and sends her letters asking her to join him but she knows America is better and safer.

I enjoyed this book a lot. It is a fine addition to Yiddish Literature in translation.

This post Is part of my participation in womenintranslationmonth#.

From The publisher

KADYA MOLODOVSKY (1894–1975) was one of the most well-known and prolific writers of Yiddish literature in the twentieth century. Born in Bereze, a small town in what is now Belarus, educated in Poland and Russia, Molodovsky was an established writer when she came to the United States in 1935. With the exception of three years (1949–52) when she lived in Israel, she spent the rest of her life in New York. Known primarily as a poet, essayist, and editor, she published over twenty books, including poetry, plays, and four novels.

ANITA NORICH is Professor Emerita of English and Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan. She is author of Writing in Tongues: Yiddish Translation in the 20th Century, Discovering Exile: Yiddish and Jewish American Literature in America During the Holocaust, The Homeless Imagination in the Fiction of Israel Joshua Singer, and editor of Languages of Modern Jewish Cultures: Comparative Perspectives, Jewish Literatures and Cultures: Context and Intertext, and Gender and Text in Modern Hebrew and Yiddish Literatures. She translates Yiddish literature and teaches, lectures, and publishes on a range of topics concerning modern Jewish cultures, Yiddish language and literature, Jewish American literature, and Holocaust literature.

Mel u

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