With Signs and Wonders: An International Anthology of Jewish Fabulist Fiction

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Bringing together 24 contemporary writers from 19 different countries, this anthology captures the exuberant storytelling tradition of the Jewish people that has been shaped by centuries of legends, folklore, and mysticism. These writers—from Central Asia, Iran, Morocco, Russia, Siberia, Israel, Latin America, Europe, and the United States—show the diverse strains of the Jewish fabulist imagination. Teeming with passion and humor and rooted in the triumphant and tragic history of a people, these stories ...
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Overview


Bringing together 24 contemporary writers from 19 different countries, this anthology captures the exuberant storytelling tradition of the Jewish people that has been shaped by centuries of legends, folklore, and mysticism. These writers—from Central Asia, Iran, Morocco, Russia, Siberia, Israel, Latin America, Europe, and the United States—show the diverse strains of the Jewish fabulist imagination. Teeming with passion and humor and rooted in the triumphant and tragic history of a people, these stories illustrate—regardless of language and locale—the Jewish fascination with the mysteries of the imagination and the endless possibilities of life.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Readers combing through this anthology can expect a rich assortment of 24 fanciful short stories, with just a few duds. All of the stories are "fabulist" that is, they cull from magical realism in the style of Gabriel Garc a M rquez. In Joe Hill's delightfully creative "Pop Art," readers learn the sad story of a boy whose best friend is, due to a birth defect, inflatable; he can't talk, and his very life is threatened by sharp branches, fork tines and other objects that might puncture him. In a tale that suggests what would have happened had Sholem Aleichem ever traveled to the American South, Steve Stern tells the saga of a flying rebbe from Tennessee. Fans who couldn't get enough of Like Water for Chocolate will relish Argentinean author Daniel Ulanovsky Sack's tale "Home Cooking." However, the collection, like most, is uneven. "Tsuris" (trouble), the tale of a quarrelsome student who demands his rabbi explain the dinosaurs, is flat and ill-suited to this anthology: the fabulist transformation here is simply that the student grows attentive. But on the whole, the quirky characters are captivating. Who can forget the curious Siamese twins who complete a minyan in American Joan Leegant's story "The Tenth"? Or Portuguese writer Moacyr Scliar's protagonist Benjamin Bok, whose various body parts are taken over by prophets? This creative collection is distinguished by its imaginative stories and international flavor. (May) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Jaffe (UCLA Extension-Online), a short story writer, essayist, and translator, has collected a group of contemporary Jewish fabulist fiction. The 25 stories are written in seven different languages and come from many countries and cultures, among them Brazil, the United States, Israel, Russia, and Mexico. Biblical themes and modern despair are resolved in many of the stories by kabbalistic insight and reconciliation. A feminist strain, championing women's freedom to explore the world, also runs through the selections. Jaffe's introduction sets the tone and places the stories in literary context. Joe Hill's "Pop Art," a story of love and friendship, is brilliantly imagined. In "Rochel Eisips," Teresa Porzecanski (a writer from Uruguay) writes of loss, memory, and the unity of the Jewish people. Cyille Fleischman's "One Day, Victor Hugo..." is a charming short fable on life's meaning, and Yakov Shechter's "Midday" is a mystical meditation on political assassination. A diverse and imaginative group of stories, recommended for Jewish studies collections. Gene Shaw, NYPL Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780967968353
  • Publisher: Invisible Cities Press Llc
  • Publication date: 5/1/2001
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 360
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.25 (d)

Meet the Author


Daniel M. Jaffe’s short stories have appeared in Response, the Greensboro Review, the Florida Review, Christopher Street, and Soviet Jewish Affairs. He teaches fiction writing at the UCLA Extension and the Cambridge Center for Adult Education. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
The Prophets of Benjamin Bok 1
Moonstruck Sunflowers (Excerpt) 13
The Roussalka 25
The Tenth 31
Compelle Intrare 51
A Case of Dementia 67
Home Cooking 77
Pop Art 85
Anya's Angel 109
Sarah's Story 137
Sarrushka and Her Daughter 151
A Visitor's Guide to Berlin 163
Tsuris 177
The Seder 183
Rochel Eisips 187
The Cat Garden 193
Dies Irae 209
One Day, Victor Hugo ... 221
The Cat Man 227
A Golem in Prague 237
Midday 249
A Portrait of Angels 265
The Tower of Gallipoli 275
Apples from Shlitzbutter's Gorden 283
The Tale of a Kite 313
Credits 331
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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2001

    A Wink of the Numinous

    This is a delightful anthology with an intriguing title. As it appears, 'fabulist' has to do with imagination, in this case Jewish, which raises each story to the level of a mystical adventure. For example, Tehila Lieberman's 'Anya's Angel' with wistfulness and delicacy evokes a touching love story with many links to the infinite; Daniel Jaffe's own 'Sarrushka and her Daughter' is a highly intriguing folk legend exploring extra-sensory powers in individuals. These two are very good stories, but I wish to focus on six that are superior in every sense: not only do they powerfully imagine situations that, being rooted in daily reality, yet somehow shade into the numinous, rich with multiple possibilities of understanding, from which a reader can only emerge enriched; they are also written in a language that is sufficiently self-conscious to bring about this magic. Here they are: Mark Apelman's 'A Visitor's Guide to Berlin' is an amazingly powerful evocation of Holocaust memories and an utterly convincing artistic emplotment of those memories, in their intensity and brutal reality, as inhabiting modern-day Berlin and claiming a reality that is more than real. Yakov Shechter's 'Midday,' a beautifully contemplative story about the search for meaning and about shaping one's own destiny, evokes a strong atmosphere of the numinous - the clouds keep darkening, the mystical intent comes more and more into focus - towards the resolution, still mysterious yet imaginatively satisfying. Joan Leegant's 'The Tenth' is a powerfully imagined story of a rabbi whose faith, learning, tolerance, whose intellectual and spiritual endurance are challenged and tested by the appearance of an unusual candidate to complete a minyan. (A similar case of a rabbi who is tested by a rebellious pupil is treated flatly and unimaginatively by Steven Sher in 'Tsuris,' which only shows that what matters and what makes a story fabulous (excuse the pun!) is not the fabula but the quality of imagination and a way with language.) Ruth Knafo Setton's 'The Cat Garden' is electrifying, memorable, descriptively evocative. The anthology ends with two of the strongest stories: Dina Rubina's 'Apples from Shlitzbutter's Garden,' which explores the semi-mystical ways in which our forefathers' inheritance follows its paths into the consciousness of the younger generation, does so with singular warmth and a sense of humor that makes everything vivid. Here the translator (who is Jaffe himself) does an exceptional job conveying an impression of a friendly, chatty narrator communicating real warmth and charm - and yet the story touches on the inevitably painful theme of the memories of our collective past. The last story in the collection is Steve Stern's 'the Tale of a Kite,' a marvelous fable humorously teaching us a lesson about human nature as well as making an eloquent case for the human need to believe utterly, unsceptically and completely. As in all anthologies, unevenness is the other side of variety, so that it is less a fault than a point of praise. I have said nothing yet about this collection¿s being a tour-de-force of pluralism, and its deftly proving that Jewish imagination is a pretty universal matter. Given so many excellent stories it is but a mild and inevitable disappointment to have alongside some weak ones, such as Galina Vromen's 'Sara's Story,' Moacyr Scliar's 'The Prophets of Benjamin Bok,' Steven Sher's 'Tsuris' and Cyrille Fleishman's 'One day, Victor Hugo.' These stories' weakness is, predominantly, in their defective imagination, which treats the supernatural realm as a source of tricks rather than of significance. In some cases quality may be hampered by an unflattering translation. In the middle stand stories such as John Shepley's 'A Golem in Prague' - good, gripping writing that keeps the reader in suspense for something meaningful, yet the design of the story is incomplete, as if it is waiting to fill a mould not yet fully in view. Another piec

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2001

    As thrilling as the cover

    The cover of this new anthology caught my eye in the store right away--a gorgeous painting of Joseph with his multi-colored dreamcoat. Jaffe's introduction drew me in right away and made me think about the mystical aspect of Jewish literature in a new way. I bought the book and started in on the stories, thinking I'd read one every night. But once I started, I couldn't stop! Like eating potato latkes or something, one story was crispier and juicier than the next. How did he pull together all these wonderful stories from all over the entire Jewish world?! Some made me laugh and others made me cry and others made me do both. Now that I've been through the entire book, I want to start it all over again because I can sense that there are themes that connect lots of the stories even though some are from Russia and Iran and others are from the U.S. and Argentina, for example. A long time since a book excited me so much. Exciting!

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