Page 34 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 8 (1949-1950)

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Recent years have witnessed a healthy interest in folklore both
in this country and abroad. A rich collection of Jewish folklore
consisting of stories, recorded traditions, legends, humor, proverbs,
wisdom, the words and music of folk songs through which are
reflected the laughter and tears, the sparkle and shadow of an
ancient yet modern people is presented in
A treasury of Jewish
compiled and edited by Nathan Ausubel (N. Y., Crown,
1948). In its pages one meets with many a hero or saint, strong
man or fool and the fabulous jesters and tricksters, shlemiels,
schlimazels and shnorrers. Songs, riddles, parables, miracles, myst-
ical experiences and earthy market-place jibes are prominently
introduced. They all provide a basis for understanding the nature
of the Jew in his weakness and his strength as well as in his joy
and sorrow. No other book in the English language contains such
a wealth of delightful material arousing laughter and tears and
inspiring courage and humility and no other book in the English
language represents such a harvest of good stories, lively anecdotes,
and merry miscellany. I t is crammed with the gayest, saddest
and wisest of Jewish tales from every part of the world. I t is filled
with uproarious laughter and not a few tears . . . with godly piety
and impudent irreverence, with great fools and even greater sages,
with magic and mysticism, often with alarming common sense
and with a great and deathless lust for living.
No other classical Yiddish writer incorporated so much of Jewish
folklore into his own writings as did Sholom Aleichem. To those
of Sholom Aleichem’s writings which have been rendered into
English and which have appeared in recent years there have now
been added
Tevye’s daughters
, translated by Frances Butwin
(N. Y., Crown, 1948) and
Inside Kasrilevke
, translated by Isidore
Goldstick (N. Y., Schocken, 1948). Both translators have done
well with the difficult job of reproducing into equivalent English
that picturesque, flavorsome, idiomatic Yiddish of Sholom Alei-
chem. The warm, sad humor of a people who have always lived
with poverty and oppression, and who have acquired the ability
to mock their own quirks and naivete which Sholom Aleichem so
ably depicted, have been well brought out by the translators. A
comprehensive survey of the life, work, achievements and influence
of this famed Yiddish writer is available in Melech Grafstein’s
Sholom Aleichem panorama
(London, Ont., Jewish Observer,
1948). I t is a splendid volume, rich not only in reading matter
but in pictorial material as well. In addition to worthwhile essays
it includes translations of characteristic writings of Sholom Alei-
chem. I t is a portable Sholom Aleichem library.