Hersh Dovid Nomberg: ‘The Golden Fantasy’ - 1906- Translated by Daniel Kennedy from Yiddish -2019
April 14, 1876. - Mszczonow (near Warsaw) Poland
November 21, 1927. -Ofwock, Poland
(For biographical data see the link below from The YIVO Encyclopedia of Eastern European Jews.)
“The Golden Fantasy” is my first encounter with the work of Hersh David Nomberg. Thanks to Daniel Kennedy there will soon be available a collection of Homberg’s set in Warsaw short stories.
My main purpose today is let those interested know that a new translation of a pre-World War One Yiddish short story is now online.
This fascinating story is structured as if we were sitting in on a conversation between friends. The time is 1906, the 1905 Russian revolution began to change everything for the Jews of Warsaw.
I will share with you the opening of the story, I found it drew me deeply into the social world of the young doctor, his ability to keep hope in a grim world.
“You claim that there are people in this world without fantasies, who live without hope or illusions? In my opinion you’re quite wrong. It’s as hard for me to conceive of a human life without oxygen, as one without hope.”
The young, newly qualified doctor stroked his black goatee and continued.
“If you wish, I’ll tell you the story of a man who currently finds himself with us in the psychiatric ward. I knew him before he came to us; five years ago, he was an acquaintance of mine. I had been kicked out of the university and found myself in a circle of very interesting young people: lost, rejected and adrift. We stuck together, living as friends, bound by the vagaries of life despite having quite different characters and persuasions.
Not much is left of our little group now: some took their own lives, one is in Siberia, one died in prison, some have moved on to other careers and so on. But forgive me, I wanted to tell you about the man without illusions who is now in the madhouse. I knew him and I think I understood him well enough, though for the longest time he was something of a puzzle to me. Not just to me in fact; everyone who knew him—Gurshteyn is his name—was taken aback by the extent of his serenity and apathy. Nothing, it seemed, could stir his heart or have any effect on his blank, nonchalantly satisfied face, nor could anything wipe away the smile in those lifeless eyes of his. No event, either in the world at large or in his own circle of acquaintances, ever took him by surprise.”
He is part of a circle of friends trying to scrap together a living.
Times are hard, we see the consequences of anti-Czarist activity, we learn of more suicides, we are given a deeper look into the man without fantasies or illusions. The men seem without wives or any sort of women in their lives and no hopes to do much more than survive.
I will leave the plot line for you to explore.
“Nomberg's stories explore modern Jewish life in the growing cosmopolitan city of Warsaw: young intellectuals in pursuit of truth, beauty, and love; working class fathers tempted by schemes for easy money; teenagers divided between their traditional religious upbringings and the world of secular culture and political revolution. By turns comic, satiric, and earnest, Nomberg's stories take the pulse of Warsaw's Jewish society at the dawn of the twentieth century”. from the website of the translator.