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, June 5, 2020

The First Patient -A Short Story by Fradel Shtok - 1919 - translated from Yiddish by Jordan Finkin - 2020

The First Patient -A Short Story by Fradel Shtok - 1919 - translated from Yiddish Jordan Finkin - 2020

The Translation is published in the 2020 Pakn Treger Digital Translation Issue

You may read today’s story here

1890 born Skale, Galacia in Austro-Hungaria

1907 - Immigrates to New York City

1952 - died in New York City in a mental hospital ( this date is found in some sources) little is know about her life after 1919.  The collection in which this story appeared in 1919
 received a scathing review in the Yiddish Press and she withdrew from most literary contacts after that. I could not determine if she ever married or had children. Her mother died when she was one and her father was sent to prison for murder before she moved to New York City.  Some say she supported herself as a seamstress.

A standard immigrate parent cliche is the sacrifices to get their son through medical school, even a dentist is very big matter .

In this story a young man fresh out of dental school is in the room with his first patient, a woman who needs a tooth pulled. His parents are in the waiting room.  They are going crazy wondering how their son is doing.  When they hear cries of pain the father peeps through the keyhole to try to see what is happening.

As the woman leaves a drama ensues about if she will pay on the way out and how much.  Watching this was a lot of fun.  In just a few pages we learn not only about the family but the patient as well.

“When the new dentist, Turner, a young man of twenty-one, received his first patient he became flustered, turned red, and spoke too much. His parents were sitting in the waiting room watching. After working so long for that diploma, they wanted to get a little joy from it.
Turner guided the patient—a middle-aged woman—into the private exam room, sat her in the chair, and closed the door behind him.
When the dentist’s mother heard the patient in the other room, she actually leapt up from her seat and blurted out, “A patient!” Her husband restrained her, “Shh, sit still.” And when she couldn’t sit still and went to have a look through the crack in the door, he got angry: “Stop running around like that, you’ll frighten the patient.”
When their son came out to get something, the two of them stood up. “Who is it?”
“A patient.”
“What does she want?”
“A tooth pulled.”
The father moved closer to him. “Look, son, this is it, your big chance.”
The son was offended. “Papa, what’s the matter with you?”
“No, don’t be mad. I won’t say any more: just be careful.”

I have access to one more short story by Fradel Shtok and will read soon.

“Born at the edges of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the small village of Skala, Fradel Shtok (1890–1990) immigrated to New York at around the age of eighteen. She began publishing her poetry in a variety of venues and quickly made a name for herself as an up-and-coming poet. In her modernist poetry she experimented with classic forms, notably the sonnet. Shtok also wrote and published short fiction, including her only book-length collection of Yiddish prose, Gezamlte ertseylungen (1919). The settings of these stories tack back and forth between the edges of the declining Austro-Hungarian Empire and the bustle of Jewish immigrants in New York. These modernist tales deal with the travails of young women looking for love and desire in a world that spurns them and with the strivings and disappointments of immigrant life in New York. This story, “The First Patient,” features a young dentist seeing one of his first patients. Accompanying him are his overbearing parents, kibitzing and intervening in his practice. At once broad comedy and a sensitive character sketch from multiple perspectives, “The First Patient” is a subtle vignette of immigrant life through Shtok’s modernist narrative lens. We are currently at work on a translation of a selection of these stories” -Jordan Finkin and Allison Schachter

1 comment:

Suko said...

Mel, I hope you and your family are doing well.

I enjoyed reading this part of the story. I am interested in reading more by this author.