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Stories of an Imaginary Childhood
     

Stories of an Imaginary Childhood

by Melvin Jules Bukiet, Melvin J. Bukiet
 

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In Stories of an Imaginary Childhood Melvin Jules Bukiet inscribes the world that might have been his own if not for the catastrophe that destroyed most of Jewish life in eastern Europe during the 1940s. Set before the Holocaust in the tiny Polish shtetl of Proszowice, each interconnected story follows the young protagonist through the pleasures and humiliations of

Overview

In Stories of an Imaginary Childhood Melvin Jules Bukiet inscribes the world that might have been his own if not for the catastrophe that destroyed most of Jewish life in eastern Europe during the 1940s. Set before the Holocaust in the tiny Polish shtetl of Proszowice, each interconnected story follows the young protagonist through the pleasures and humiliations of childhood and the rites of manhood, as he fights against historical, social, and psychological forces that threaten to pull him down.

"Bukiet proves that he is an expert at the [short story] form. His stories lift and soar, encompassing a world of truth in just a few pages. His characters have flesh and life. . . . Bukiet’s topics are varied and universal: first love, growing up, trying to get along with people who are different. Each of these is approached with great humor and a deep respect for life experience."—Daniel Neman, Richmond News Leader

"Jewish-American fiction of a new order, one able to bring the best that has been thought and said about voice and literary texture to the service of a world with richer meaning and a deeper resonance."—Sanford Pinsker, Midstream

"Bukiet is enchanting, original, and thoroughly irresistible in any disguise. Stories of an Imaginary Childhood is an extraordinary achievement, an immensely enjoyable collection of truly remarkable tales."—Susan Miron, Miami Herald

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this well-intentioned but overwritten effort, ultimately a pallid imitation of the works of Isaac Bashevis Singer, Bukiet ( Sandman's Dust ) conjures a Polish shtetl circa 1928. The narrator of 12 linked stories is a precocious Jewish boy who gets into myriad scrapes and who observes his elders with a wry amusement. He makes ``sounds like the slaughter of swine'' on his new violin but his proud parents think he's a virtuoso; when he trades his patchwork quilt for a young gypsy's bicycle, his family looks at him as if he were ``Esau caught trading his birthright for a bowl of pottage'' and the less-than-thrilled gypsies compel him to bicycle on a tightrope; he plays Cyrano as he scribbles love letters for a man whose obvious poverty never tarnishes his reputation as a millionaire (``We'll never have the money he hasn't got,'' says the narrator's father); he lusts after Rebecca, a Jewish whore who proudly recounts the story of Hanukkah for Polish scoffers, and helps to deliver her illegitimate baby. The collection has bite only when Bukiet humanizes Zalman the gravedigger, a dreamy philosopher, and when the narrator, hallucinating, believes himself to be Torquemada, the Grand Inquisitor, and others who persecuted the Jews. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
“Melvin Jules Bukiet . . . writing about an extinct world he never knew and never will, appears to have devised a new and haunting way of recalling what must never be forgotten.”—Joseph Coates, Chicago Tribune

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780810110311
Publisher:
Northwestern University Press
Publication date:
03/01/1992
Pages:
197
Product dimensions:
5.99(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.59(d)

What People are Saying About This

Lawrence L. Langer
I don't know of any other work in English (or for that matter in any other language) that tried to recreate imaginatively the lost world of European Jewry. We cannot help thinking about Proszowice as one of the hundreds of East European shtetls whose population vanished from the face of the earth during the Second World War. This muted anticipation of a devastating future is handled throughout with the control of the true artist….It seems to me evident that Sholom Aleichem and Isaac Babel have been among Mr. Bukiet's models, but this is not an intrusive detail; rather it inspires the informed reader to appreciate his talents and perhaps even genius for developing a vision uniquely his own that bears comparison (favorably) with theirs….An original contribution to modern literature.
—(Lawrence L. Langer)
James E. Young
Extremely finely polished gem of stories about the child's understanding of the world around him, how it has been passed down to him, how real and imagined worlds may never be entirely distinct from each other. They are wise, dexterously told, ironic, funny, and sad—they capture both the impulse of a survivor's child to know all that was lost, and the details of this past life as remembered by a father to his son….The only work to which I might compare this collection would be Spiegelman's Maus.
—(James E. Young)

Meet the Author

Melvin Jules Bukiet teaches writing at Sarah Lawrence College. He is the author of Strange Fire, Signs and Wonders, After, and While the Messiah Tarries and editor of Nothing Makes You Free: Writings by Descendants of Jewish Holocaust Survivors.

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