Page 101 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 23

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— S
h o lom
le ich em
Samuel3s The World of Sholom Aleichem
Nearly a quarter century later the same publisher put out a
book on Sholom Aleichem, perhaps the best on the subject to
date, which did very well both with the critics and in the book
stores—Maurice Samuel's
The World of Sholom Aleichem.
Samuel's mind was the hope that the book would arouse suffi-
cient interest for a publisher to undertake the publication in
his translation of the principal works of Sholom Aleichem.
Samuel was willing to devote a number of years to this endeavor.
But there was no profusion of publishers for this project.
Indirectly, Samuel’s book did help to launch Sholom Aleichem
in English. Some time after the publication of Samuel's book
Robert Simon, a traveling salesman for a New York publishing
house, happened to be visiting a book store in Minneapolis,
Minnesota, operated by a couple with a literary bent, Julius and
Frances Butwin. Two nuns came into the store, browsed a while
among the new books, and came up with a request for a book
by Sholom Aleichem. They had read, they said, a book about
this Jewish author and now wanted to read a book by him. This
led to the publication of the first collection of Sholom Aleichem’s
stories by Crown, Inc
.—The Old Country
in the translation of
Julius and Frances Butwin. The book made the best seller list,
somewhere in the middle, selling about 50,000 copies.
Today there are about ten books by Sholom Aleichem in
English translation in hard cover, paperback and Modern Library
editions. An additional volume of stories not yet translated is
due from Putnam’s. There have been renderings of Sholom
Aleichem stories over radio and television, and of course, there
is the most successful, prize-winning
Fiddler On the Roof.
In Western Europe, too, interest in Sholom Aleichem has
grown and become general. During the author’s lifetime trans-
lations of his works in German, French, Italian and Scandinavian
were meager and scant, in the nature of a literary curiosity in-
tended for the cognoscente. Recently new translations in bulky
volumes for the general trade have appeared in these languages;
thus the writings of Sholom Aleichem are now reaching a wide
reading public. This does not compare, however, with his popu-
larity in the countries behind the Iron Curtain and in China.
In the Soviet Union Sholom Aleichem is regarded as a “Soviet”
writer, inasmuch as he was a native of Russia and wrote of life
there. He is required reading in literature courses beyond the
elementary school level. It would be difficult to find an educated
Soviet person who has not had some contact with his writings.
Over seven million books by Sholom Aleichem in 16 languages