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- In the Pale: Stories and Legends of the Russian Jews (1897) Henry Iliowizi (Hardcover)?
If the Jews of were searching for a lost connection to their forebears, those of 50 years before wanted nothing more than to assert their differences from theirs. The Jews of the great immigration were trying to become American. Not only was he the most celebrated author that Yiddishland as Dauber calls it had produced; he was, by proud and conscious choice, a Folkschreiber , a writer of the people. And as with Twain, as Dauber shows, such condescension gets him badly wrong.
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We learn how popular the writer was, but we never really get a sense of why. Proceeding year by year and work by work and there was a huge amount of work—stories, novels, sketches, satires, essays, plays , Dauber runs his magnifying glass too closely to the surface to give us a coherent picture of the whole. But Dauber, a scholar of modern Jewish literature, is superb at situating the writer within his literary and historical context.
Sholem Aleichem was the great chronicler of Jewish existence in the Pale of Settlement during the decades of its simultaneous efflorescence and dissolution. The Pale was the vast territorial ghetto to which the Russian empire confined its Jews, and in which it spasmodically oppressed, attacked, and immiserated them. The region roughly corresponds to modern-day Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Lithuania, and a sizable chunk of Poland, including Warsaw—essentially the old Polish commonwealth, which Russia had absorbed in the 18th century.
In the Pale - Stories and Legends of the Russian Jews (Paperback)
Almost all of them spoke Yiddish, and more than half of them were literate. As the century came to a close, enormous changes in their lives were under way. At the same time, the empire was rapidly modernizing, and its Jews were modernizing with it. Religious practice was declining. Religious belief was fading. New money was coming in, upsetting old arrangements and values. The siren call of Western modernity was wafting through the Pale, luring Jews to socialism, secularism, and other idolatries, not to mention the professions and the cities.
Sholem Aleichem saw it all and wrote it all, in part because he lived it all. He was born in a town but raised in a shtetl. Nochem was also both observant and a Maskil, a devotee of the Jewish Enlightenment, with its love of European culture. Sholem went to a cheder, religious primary school, but then to a secular high school, where he found his calling in the Russian masters and the Western classics.
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Then came something out of a fairy tale. The affair was exposed; the tutor was dismissed; the lady persisted; the lovers were eventually united.
Less than two years later, her father suddenly dropped dead, leaving Sholem, at the age of 26, among the richest Jews in Eastern Europe. The notion that there even was such an entity was still in question. When the Maskilim set out, around the middle of the 19th century, to create a modern Jewish literature, they turned to Hebrew, conceived of as a pure and classic tongue.
If Zionism, which was emerging around the same time, was a belated form of political nationalism, the Yiddish literary movement was a belated version of what other European peoples had already undertaken: the development of a high aesthetic tradition out of the materials of folk culture. Like Joyce, though with a lot less self-importance, Sholem Aleichem sought to forge the uncreated conscience of his race. Being a Folkschreiber did not mean purifying the dialect of the tribe, but drawing on the fullest range of its resources, incorporating all the forms of expression that the people had already built up during the unrecorded history of their everyday speech.
Sholem Aleichem loved to play with sayings, was a connoisseur of idioms, and had a special relish for the virtuosic curses of the Jewish housewife. He often structured his stories like folktales, or like jokes. His favorite form was the monologue—that is what the Tevye stories are—and he liked to show his characters just swapping yarns.
But the heart of his achievement was his Yiddish itself. Sholem Aleichem reveled in the chaos, leveraging it to characterize and differentiate his figures in a multitude of ways. There is also his taste for the typical. Unlike other modernists, he eschewed the extremes of experience. But his greatest character may be Sholem Aleichem, the author not only of the stories but, so often, in them.
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It is he, for example, whom Tevye regales with his troubles. Sholem Aleichem uses the devices of metafiction, the modernist repertoire of frames and masks, not to distance but to draw us closer, not to hide but greet. He was with the Jews of Russia every step of the historical way. The Tevye stories—nine all told from to —unfold in real time. Tevye gets older; Sholem Aleichem gets older.
The Pale undergoes, in the person of a common man, its cycles of hope and despair. And not the picturesque variety, either:.
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Poverty is not conducive to the virtues. In Kasrilevke there is envy, and spite, and hatred of the rich. There is strife, and theft, and every kind of domestic upheaval. Comes the railroad and the stock market, the legends of Rothschild and the rumors of Odessa, and he takes the fatal step of trying to enact those dreams, out in the uncharted realms of the new speculative economy.
At the other end of his letters his stories are epistolary , back in Kasrilevke, waits the leaden reality of domestic life. Its distinction, as is often said, consists in its being pointed at the self. Jewish humor arises in the gap between reality and dreams, reality and justice. Now and then the scene is tinged with the melodramatic, but it never fails to convey profound faith, deep reverence, lofty morality, proud self-consciousness, and sublime spirituality. What the world does not yet appreciate is his optimism, his readiness to laugh at the humorous sides of life, and his ability to make others laugh at them.
Convert currency. Add to Basket. Condition: New. Language: English. From the author s preface when the book was originally published in In explanation of some features of the following tales and of the Russo-Judean genius for story-telling in general, it should be remembered that the tellers of the tales current in Russian Jewry are students of the Talmud, accustomed to the hyperbole, characteristic of much of the unique literature to which they devote their lives. It is not too hazardous to say that in point of inventiveness they can vie with the Arabian Nights Entertainments, and in ideality and moral elevation they far surpass them.
These tales of fact, folklore, and fiction may serve to open a window of the great dungeon wherein at least half of scattered Israel suffers, worships, and dreams. That the Russian Jew is in possession of enough material for tales of woe, needed no demonstration. Seller Inventory AAV More information about this seller Contact this seller.
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