Library JournalInnovative Yiddish stylist Bergelson, not widely known to English-language readers, writes of the declining world of small-town Eastern European Jews, capturing the dreariness of the uncommitted life. His characters suffer from despair and depression as a result of the loosening ties of the shtetl (small village) and religion. In "Remnants," for instance, Beyla Henya does not speak. Poor, pockmarked, and ugly, she is trapped in a loveless marriage, yet she does not let the harsh circumstances destroy her. Instead, she extricates herself from her situation and finally is able to marry a respectable man as silent as she. In "Impoverished," the gentle silence of the former story is now oppressive and harsh as two sister act cruelly to their blind father. Werman's subtle translation brings a fine storyteller to light. Recommended for libraries with international and Jewish studies collection.Molly Abramowitz, Silver Spring, Md.
Kirkus ReviewsBergelson (18841952) was a Russian Jewish writer whose hopeful embrace of Communism persuaded him briefly to write according to the dictates of Socialist Realism, and whose subsequent disillusionment stimulated his passionate commitment to the dissemination and survival of Yiddish culture, leading to his arrest and murder in a Stalinist prison camp. His fictionstark and pessimistic in the extremehas heretofore appeared only piecemeal, in various story anthologies. The three works collected here, all written early in Bergelson's career, bring a grave and elegiac tone (very nicely translated) and a keen understanding of the psychology of alienation and despair to memorable portrayals of a homely woman's determined pursuit of her right to happiness ("Remnants"), a father and his adult daughters who seem to mourn themselves and one another even as they live ("Impoverished"), and a suicide that produces surprising changes in the lives of those left behind (the novella "Departing"). Intense and uncompromising fiction from one of the great, neglected Yiddish storytellers.
- Syracuse University Press
- Publication date:
- Judaic Traditions in Literature, Music and Art Series
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