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A Shtetl and Other Yiddish Novellas

Edited by Ruth Wisse

Publication Year: 1986

The five short novellas which comprise this anthology were written between 1890 and World War I. All share a common setting—the Eastern European Jewish town or shtetl, and all deal in different ways with a single topic—the Jewish confrontation with modernity. The authors of these novellas are among the greatest masters of Yiddish prose. In their work, today's reader will discover a literary tradition of considerable scope, energy, and variety and will come face to face with an exceptionally memorable cast of characters and with a human community now irrevocably lost. In her general introduction, Professor Wisse traces the development of modern Yiddish literature in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and describes the many shifts that took place between the Yiddish writers and the world about which they wrote. She also furnishes a brief introduction for each novella, giving the historical and biographical background and offering a critical interpretation of the work.

Published by: Wayne State University Press


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pp. 1-4


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p. 6-6


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pp. 7-8


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pp. vii-10

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pp. ix-xi

FOR THREE YEARS, 1968-71, as part of the Jewish Studies Program of McGill University, I taught a course, in English translation, on the Yiddish narrative. By some great good fortune, the course attracted a disproportionately high number of excellent students whose curiosity exhausted the available materials and left us wishing for more. The present volume was prepared with their standards and questions in min...

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pp. 1-22

THE FLOWERING of Yiddish literature in Eastern Europe during the latter half of the nineteenth century was part of a larger, more generalized phenomenon: the effort, undertaken by many Jewish writers and thinkers, to create modern, secular forms for a culture that had been conceived and nurtured in religious faith. This effort, itself a response to developments in the world at large as much as to changing internal needs and pressures...

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pp. 23-78

The Shtetl, an idyll of the Jewish small town in Poland. Publishedwhen the shtetl was already going to seed, or its inhabitants toAmerica, Asch's novella captures what wasf or is imagined as being,its golden age, a time when Jews were rooted in their own traditionsand in harmony with both the Polish peasantry and the aristocracy....

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pp. 79-140

...stories and novels, written between the abortive revolution of 1905and the successful Bolshevik revolution twelve years later, convey ahopelessness, of pre-revolutionary Russia. Social progress and per-and their native communities. The shtetl is in decline; its inhabit-ants are trapped by torpor and unable to pry themselves loose into...

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pp. 141-212

...naturalists in the late nineteenth century, generally accompanies aclaim to greater honesty and a rejection of stilted fictional modes. Inpresenting the underside of society, an author proclaims the nobleintention of baring certain crucial matters of fact that his precursorsconscientiously ignored. Other claims to honesty follow: the more...

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pp. 213-248

...shtetl, "with the purpose of spreading the ideas of the Haskalahamong local youths and of opening their eyes. "His undertaking wascharacteristic of the period: a young man, inspired by the ideals ofknowledge with the students he undertakes to tutor, and thereby toMeanwhile the shtetl, accustomed to pitting itself against external...

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pp. 249-372

...was to be sought in all his works, this is the only self-styled story ofhis life, and it offers what is perhaps the most detailed study of athat of his European contemporaries who were baring their lives tothe very bone in an effort to achieve absolute personal honesty.Contemporary Hebrew literature was also rich in dramatic exposi-...


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pp. 373-375


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p. 376-376

E-ISBN-13: 9780814339893
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814318492

Page Count: 376
Publication Year: 1986