The Best of Sholem Aleichem by Sholom AleichemThis book caught my interest because I had read in Tradition!: The Highly Improbable, Ultimately Triumphant Broadway-to-Hollywood Story of Fiddler on the Roof, the Worlds Most Beloved Musical that one of my favorite musicals of all time, Fiddler on the Roof, was based on stories by this author. This is a collection of short stories, divided into four sections, and is translated from the original Yiddish.
The editors point out in the introduction that in some stories, some of the humor is unfortunately lost in translation, especially where quotes from Hebrew are concerned. So there were a few stories that, when they ended, I felt like scratching my head and wondering if Id missed something. But, that sometimes happens with English stories too, so maybe its me.
Either way, the majority of these stories do not involve actual characters from Fiddler. Section one, the largest, was probably my least favorite, though I still enjoyed parts of it.
Section two introduces Tevye the milk man. I see there are story collections devoted to him and his daughters, so I can only assume this is just a sampling here. It was very interesting to read--in some places I think this Tevye has more of an edge to him than the Tevye in the musical. But the final story in this section, Get Thee Out portrays so well the emotions and agony of being chased out of the only home youve known.
I enjoyed the third section--the characters were amusingly eccentric, but not so much so that I felt like I couldnt understand them.
The fourth section gets a bit darker, as the reality of pogroms hits home. It is interesting to trace the tone of this collection from the beginning to the end, which apparently mirrored Aleichems life as well, as he had to flee his home in the early 1900s.
Overall, I think the best thing about this collection is how well it portrays the voice of Jewish culture and tradition at this time and place. Even when the characters were not from Fiddler, I could still see common themes and pieces of those characters in others.
And now I really want to watch Fiddler on the Roof again.
Ten Works You Should Read
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Share Jewish Stories. Nishmas: Archives of Chassidic Stories. Chabad: Jewish Tales from the Past - over Jewish stories. Shema Yisrael: Shabbat Stories for Children. Yiddish Tales by Helena Frank - 48 tales.
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Sholem Aleichem [Shalom Rabinovitz] was the most beloved of all Yiddish writers. Although there were popular Yiddish authors before him, Sholem Aleichem was instrumental in shaping what we now call Modern Yiddish Literature. He nourished the young literature as a publisher and editor. As a writer, he waged a war to raise the aesthetic standards of Yiddish fiction. He routinely experimented with form and genres: plays, short fiction, story cycles, and epistolary novels, to name but a few. All of these topics are major themes in his work. What follows is a guide to these varied holdings, and a selection of external resources.