The World According to Itzik: Selected Poetry and Prose [NOOK Book]

Overview

In the years between 1929 and 1939, when Itzik Manger wrote most of the poetry and fiction that made him famous, his name among Yiddish readers was a household word. Called the Shelley of Yiddish, he was characterized as being "drunk with talent." This book -- the first full-length anthology of Manger's work -- displays the range of his genius in poetry, fiction, and criticism. The book begins with an extensive historical, biographical, and literarycritical introduction to Manger's work. The selections include ...
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The World According to Itzik: Selected Poetry and Prose

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Overview

In the years between 1929 and 1939, when Itzik Manger wrote most of the poetry and fiction that made him famous, his name among Yiddish readers was a household word. Called the Shelley of Yiddish, he was characterized as being "drunk with talent." This book -- the first full-length anthology of Manger's work -- displays the range of his genius in poetry, fiction, and criticism. The book begins with an extensive historical, biographical, and literarycritical introduction to Manger's work. The selections include excerpts from his novel The Book of Paradise, three short stories, autobiographical essays, critical essays, and foremost, Manger's magnificent poetry -- ballads, lyrics, and his bold retellings of the Midrash and Songs of the Megillah. These works, which have the patina of myths acquired ages ago, also offer modern psychological insight and irrepressible humor. With Manger we make the leap into the Jewish twentieth century, as he re-creates the past in all its layered expressiveness and interprets it with modernist sensibilities.
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Editorial Reviews

Ruth R. Wisse
Manger’s deceptively folkish style,which mixes fantasy and autobiography,Biblical plots and a fin-de-siècle East European setting,pathos and parody,angels’ wings and social protest,the lyric and dramatic,has been brilliantly rendered into English by Leonard Wolf.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781480440777
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 10/15/2013
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 1,244,423
  • File size: 472 KB

Meet the Author


Leonard Wolf is a distinguished novelist and translator of Yiddish books, short stories, and poetry. He has taught courses in New York University’s School of Continuing Education since his retirement from San Francisco State University.     
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Read an Excerpt

The World According to Itzik

Selected Poetry and Prose

YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS

Copyright © 2002 Fund for the Translation of Jewish Literature
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-300-09248-2


Chapter One

LOT'S DAUGHTERS

Lot's daughters sit in the kitchen Whispering among themselves. One of them plucks a new-killed goose, The other one mends a dress.

The First one says, "A week ago It was my fortieth year. Today when I looked in the mirror, I saw my first gray hair.

Father carouses in taverns And the years pass swiftly by. My bridal shoes in the closet Lie waiting, hopelessly."

The second lets her needle drop And sits engrossed in thought. "Sister," she says, "my bedclothes At night grow feverish hot."

She says, her breathing parched, "I dreamed A blue-clad soldier came And slept all night between my breasts ... It was a lovely dream.

And then he left the dream and me- He does not reappear- As if no troops were garrisoned Among us any more."

The first one says, "Now listen, Because I have a plan. If bridegrooms will not come to us- A father is also a man."

Her cheeks are flushed, her breath is hot, Her voice unsteady, dim: "Sister, on this very night I mean to lie with him. Tomorrow, you. Why should we wait? Our father is drunk as Lot. And mother, in that cursed town Of Sodom turned to salt."

They're both inflamed. Around their lamp Beats a tardy butterfly ... "Sister, get ready. Our father comes Stumbling heavily."

ABRAHAM AND SARAH

"Abraham, when will we have a child? We're not getting younger, you know. Other women my age would have had Eighteen children by now."

The Patriarch Abraham puffs at his pipe And waits, then he says with a smile, "A broomstick, my dear, can be made to shoot If the Lord thinks it's worthwhile."

"Abraham, love, each night I hear My body sobbing for life ... Hagar is only your handmaiden While I am your own true wife.

Often, it seems to me that the star That gleams in the windowpane Is the soul of my child that's wandering Among shadows and wind and rain."

The Patriarch Abraham puffs at his pipe And waits, then he says with a smile, "A broomstick, my dear, can be made to shoot If the Lord thinks it's worthwhile." "When I see Hagar's son playing With sunbeams in the sand I find myself caressing him And grief overwhelms my hand.

And when I take him in my lap His smile's so bright and sweet, I feel my blood turn strangely cold And then my eyes are wet.

Abraham, when will we have a child? We're not getting younger, you know. Other women my age would have had Eighteen children by now."

The Patriarch Abraham puffs at his pipe And waits, then he says with a smile, "A broomstick, my dear, can be made to shoot If the Lord thinks it's worthwhile."

HAGAR'S LAST NIGHT IN ABRAHAM'S HOUSE

Hagar, the servant, sits in the kitchen; A smoking oil lamp spills The shapes of shadowy cats and dogs To flicker on the walls.

She weeps because her master Fired her today. "Beat it, you bitch," he told her. "Can't you let me be?"

It was Sarah who egged him on, That proper deaconess, Saying, "You get rid of the girl Or give me a divorce." Hagar takes out of her trunk A summer hat of straw; She takes her green silk apron And her bloodred beads of coral.

These were the gifts he gave her Once upon a day When they strolled the meadow By the railroad right-of-way.

"How like the smoke of a chimney, How like the smoke of a train Is the love of a man, dear mother, The love of any man.

God knows where we will run to, Myself and his bastard child, Unless in some alien kitchen We are allowed to hide."

She takes the kitchen broom up, She sweeps the kitchen floor. Under her blouse, her heart says, "I love him." She sweeps some more.

Again, she does the dishes, She scours the copper pan. "How like the smoke from a chimney Is the love of any man."

HAGAR LEAVES ABRAHAM'S HOUSE

The dawn is blue at the window, Three times the rooster crowed. Outside the horse is neighing, Impatient for the road. Hagar is worn with weeping; Her child lies in her arms: Once more she casts her eyes around The gray, familiar room.

Outdoors, the teamster haggles For his fare with Abraham: "All right, six dollars, even, For hauling both of them."

The pony scrapes the gravel As if it were saying, "Come on! Give me a chance to show you How to make the highway tame."

"This is our portion, Ishmael; Darling, dry your tears. This is the way of the Fathers With their long and reverend beards."

She foresees herself abandoned In a railroad waiting hall In a foreign country and she sobs Into her Turkish shawl.

"Hagar, stop that sniveling- Woman, do you hear me or no?" Hagar takes her bundle, Hagar turns to go.

He stands with his silken cap on, The pious Abraham- "Dear mother, tell me, does he feel My heart's defeated pain?"

The whistle blows; they've started. She sees, through tear-rimmed eyes, The village houses slowly Scrape backward in a haze. She takes the earth and heaven To be her witnesses: This is the way of the Fathers With their long and reverend beards.

HAGAR ON HER JOURNEY

Hagar, worn with weeping, Sits on a highway stone. She asks of every passing wind The way that she must go.

One says, "Hagar, take the east." Another, "West, that's where." A third wind is a prankster And plays among her hair.

Hagar asks the passing birds Flying through the air. One whispers, "You go north." Another, "South, that's where."

She weeps, "For years, O God, I served him faithfully. See now how any bird or wind Can make a fool of me?"

Hagar lifts her head And sees a caravan Led by the Turkish sultan With a mantle all of green.

Nearer, he comes, and nearer, Then speaks. His voice is firm: "Tell me, are you Hagar, Servant to Ibrahim? And your little baby boy, Is Ishmael his name? We have heard our prophet say That we descend from him."

The sultan falls before her, He kneels down in the dust. "Our lineage finds its honor. Allah, O Allah be praised."

Not knowing what the truth is, She can only stare While the moon is a silver crescent Glistening in her hair.

ABRAHAM TAKES ITZIK TO THE SACRIFICE

The gray light of the dawning Touches the earth with dawn. Eliezer, the loyal servant, puts The black team's harness on.

Taking the child up in his arms, Old Abraham shuts the door. Over his ancient roof, there gleams A blue and pious star.

"Up, Eliezer"-the whip rings out, The road has a silvery look. "Sad and lovely," the poet says, "Are the roads of the Holy Book."

The graying willows on the way Run to the house again To see if his mother stands beside The cradle of her son. "Daddy, where are we going now?" "To Lashkev-to the fair." "Daddy, what are you going to buy At Lashkev-at the fair?"

"A soldier made of porcelain, A trumpet, and a drum; A piece of satin to make a dress For mother, who waits at home."

Abraham feels his eyes grow moist And the steel knife pressing, where It scalds the flesh beneath his shirt ... "To Lashkev ... the fair ... some fair."

"Eliezer, stop at the water mill. Stop for a while and wait. Isaac, my son, and I will go On from there on foot."

Eliezer sits and grumbles, and casts Down the road an anxious look. "Sad and lovely," the poet says, "Are the roads of the Holy Book."

THE PATRIARCH ABRAHAM GETS A LETTER

The Patriarch Isaac walks in the field, Serious, solemn, and grave, And sees a butterfly perching on A cornflower, where it waves.

A moment, two, and it's gone- Far, far, without remorse- Ah, has the charlatan at least Given the flower a divorce? In Isaac's eye there gleams a tear- "The world is filled with sin." Then slowly, gravely, Isaac goes To his father Abraham's tent.

The Patriarch Abraham on the sill Chats there with the postman, Who has brought a letter, sealed, For Abraham, Terah's son.

"The bride's well-dowered, lovely, too, And everything's all right. Very soon I'll bring her home," True Eliezer writes.

"Yes, very soon, I'll bring her home With camels, jewels, and cash. Her name is Rivke, and she's famed For the way that she cooks fish."

Abraham smiles and gives The postman some baksheesh. Ah, since his dear wife, Sarah, died, Abraham's not tasted fish.

He shuts his eyes-Ah, he feels good To hear the melody. Of the Gemara Yitshok sings- He'll grow in piety.

Amar Abai, how sweet it is. The old man nods and smiles. In his beard a sunset ray Plays, trembling, for a while.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from The World According to Itzik Copyright © 2002 by Fund for the Translation of Jewish Literature. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Let Us Sing Simply x
Introduction xiii
Poetry
Itzik's Midrash
Introduction 3
The Sacrifice of Itzik 4
I Praise Thee Lord 5
Eve and the Apple Tree 5
Eve Brings Adam the Apple 7
Abraham Scolds Lot 8
Lot's Daughters 10
Abraham and Sarah 11
Hagar's Last Night in Abraham's House 12
Hagar Leaves Abraham's House 13
Hagar on Her Journey 15
Abraham Takes Itzik to the Sacrifice 16
The Patriarch Abraham Gets a Letter 17
Rachel Goes to the Well for Water 19
The Patriarch Jacob Meets Rachel 20
Leah Brings Mandrakes from the Field 21
Jacob Teaches the Story of Joseph to His Sons 22
Bathsheba 24
King David and Abishag 25
Abishag Writes a Letter Home 26
Cain and Abel 27
King David 29
Songs of the Megillah
Prologue 30
Invocation 31
The Song of the Runner 31
How the Blessed Mordecai Found Favor in the Eyes of the King 32
Queen Vashti 34
The King's Banquet 35
Vashti's Song of Grief 37
Queen Vashti Being Led to Execution 39
Esther Getting Ready for the King 40
Mordecai Leaving Esther's Wedding 41
Fastrigosso's Elegy 43
Queen Esther Can't Sleep 44
Fastrigosso Dreaming 45
The Blessed Mordecai, the Mediator 47
The Queen Comes to the King 48
Fastrigosso Has the Birds Carry a Greeting to Esther 49
Haman Telephones Vayzosse, the Editor, at His Office 50
Fonfosso, the Master Tailor, Delivers a Eulogy on Fastrigosso 52
The King Ahasuerus After the Assassination Attempt 53
Mordecai Comes to Queen Esther 55
Wicked Haman Can't Sleep 56
Wicked Haman in the King's Courtyard 56
Fonfosso and His Apprentices Sew a Uniform for Haman 59
Pious Mordecai Waits for Satan 60
The Master Tailor, Fonfosso, Prepares to Fast 62
Queen Esther, Fasting 63
Haman Gets Ready for the Masked Ball 64
The King Is Angry 66
Haman Being Taken to the Gallows 67
The Master Tailor, Fonfosso, Presides over a Banquet 68
Fastrigosso's Mother Lights a Memorial Candle 70
Ballads
The Ballad of the White Glow 72
The Ballad of the Crucified and the Verminous Man 73
Old-Fashioned Ballad 74
Hospital Ballad 76
The Ballad of the Man Riding to the Fair 78
Ballad 79
The Ballad of the Blue Pitchers 81
The Ballad of the Necklace of Stars 83
Erotic Ballad 85
The Ballad of the Man Who Went from Gray to Blue 86
Occasional Poems
In the Train 90
Baal Shem 91
Satan's Prayer 91
Evening 93
Saint Besht 94
Like a Murderer 96
With Silent Steps 96
November 97
At the Kolomey Station 99
Twilight 100
The Words of the Journeyman Tailor Notte Manger to the Poet 101
There Is a Tree That Stands 102
Rabenu Tam 104
Reb Levi Yitskhok 105
Since Yesterday 105
For Years I Wallowed 106
Epilogue 107
Prose
Autobiographical Episodes
Childhood Years in Kolomey 111
At Grandmother Taube's in Stopchet 117
A Portrait of a Tailor's Workshop 123
Fiction
Excerpts from The Book of Paradise 135
The Tales of Hershel Summerwind 196
The Story of the Nobleman's Mustaches 207
The Rabbi of Chelm: May His Memory Be Blessed 218
Essays
First Letter to X. Y. 225
The Ballad: The Vision of Blood 227
Sholem Aleichem, the One and Only 229
Folklore and Literature 236
Notes 245
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