The I. L. Peretz Reader

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Isaae Leybush Peretz (1852 1915) is one of the most influential figures of modern Jewish culture. Born in Poland and dedicated to Yiddish culture, he recognized that Jews needed to adapt to their times while preserving their cultural heritage, and his captivating and beautiful writings explore the complevities inherent in the struggle between tradition and the desire for progress. This book, which presents a memoir, poem, travelogue, and twenty-six stories by Peretz, also provides a detailed essay about Peretz's life by Ruth R. Wisse. This edition of the book includes as well Peretz's great visionary drama 1 Vight in the Old Marketplace, in a rhymed, performable translation by Hillel Halkin.
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Editorial Reviews

Stanislaw Baranczak
For any American reader, this will be a handy and skillfully edited selection of the most representative writings of one of the masters of world literature. For any Jewish American reader, it will also be a monument in commemoration of ... a writer who ... laid the foundations for the modern Yiddish literary tradition.
The New Republic
Elie Wiesel
If you want to discover the beauty,the depth,the unique wonder of Yiddish literature—read this volume by its Master.
Stanislaw Baranczak
For any American reader,this will be a handy and skillfully edited selection of the most representative writings of one of the masters of world literature. For any Jewish American reader,it will also be a monument in commemoration of . . . a writer who . . . laid the foundations for the modern Yiddish literary tradition.
The New Republic
Richard Eder
The tales,which occupy most of the book,vary widely. Some have the form and tone of simple folk tales. Others suggest a Hasidic-like mysticism,sometimes approaching the surreal. The best,I think combine both a sympathy for the values of the shtetl and a note of irony.
Los Angeles Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This second volume in the Library of Yiddish Classics series includes 26 familiar stories by the master storyteller and social critic 1852-1915; most of them benefit from new translations. Peretz was a giant of Yiddish literature who advocated a radical shift from religious observance especially the mysticism of Hasidism to the rationalism of scientific progress and secular Jewish culture. But he could not escape his roots entirely; in his writings as in his life, he shows affection for his co-religionists. In ``If Not Higher,'' a skeptic comes to believe that a humble Hasidic rebbe is worthy of sainthood. In ``Venus and Shulamith'' Peretz extols the virtuous maiden of the Song of Songs over the licentious Venus of Greek mythology, demonstrating his mastery of both biblical texts and classical literature. Two major entries--``My Memoirs'' and the vignettes titled ``Impressions of a Journey''--are here in their first unabridged English translation. The former is a vivid portrait of growing up orthodox in mid-19th century Poland. Each vignette in ``Journey'' is a story in itself: Peretz depicts grinding poverty side by side with belief in miracles, and demonstrates a stoic acceptance of life's realities. His works stand in brilliantly evocative tribute to a bygone era. Nov.
Library Journal
This, the second volume in the ``Library of Yiddish Classics'' series, presents selections from the writing of Peretz (1852-1915), who was perhaps the greatest and most influential writer in modern Yiddish literature. Included are many of his best short stories like ``Bontsche the Silent,'' his famous poem ``Monish,'' some travel sketches, and his memoirs. The translations are quite good, and professor/critic Wisse's penetrating introduction is a gem. Highly recommended for all literature collections.-- Robert A. Silver, Shaker Heights P.L., Ohio
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300092455
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 7/28/2002
  • Series: New Yiddish Library Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 461
  • Product dimensions: 5.48 (w) x 8.22 (h) x 1.29 (d)

Table of Contents

Impressions of a Journey Through the Tomaszow Region 17
Venus and Shulamith 88
What Is the Soul? 93
In the Mail Coach 104
Bryna's Mendl 118
A Musician's Death 125
The Pious Cat 128
The Golem 130
The Shabbes Goy 131
The Poor Boy 138
Bontshe Shvayg 146
Kabbalists 152
A Contribution for a Wedding 156
The Dead Town 162
Uncle Shakhne and Aunt Yakhne 171
If Not Higher 178
A Conversation 181
Between Two Mountains 184
The Missing Melody 196
Stories 200
Revelation, or, The Story of the Billy Goat 212
The Magician 218
Three Gifts 222
Downcast Eyes 230
A Chapter of the Psalms 242
A Pinch of Snuff 251
Yom Kippur in Hell 258
My Memoirs 263
A Night in the Old Marketplace 361
Afterword 433
Notes 441
Glossary 457
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