Everyday Jews - Perle, Yehoshue; Fund for the Translation of Jewish Literature; National Yiddish Book Center; Birstein, Margaret; Deshell, Maier; Roskies, David G. - Yale University Press
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- New Yiddish Library Series
Scenes from a Vanished Life
Yehoshue Perle; Edited by David G. Roskies; Translated by Maier Deshell and Margaret Birstein
Winner of the fifth Fenia and Yaakov Leviant Memorial Prize in Yiddish Studies for an outstanding translation of a Yiddish literary work, given by the Modern Language Association of America
When Everyday Jews was first published in Poland in 1935, the Jewish Left was scandalized by the sex scenes, and I. B. Singer complained that the novel was too bleak to be psychologically credible. Yet within two years Perle’s novel was heralded as a modern Yiddish masterpiece. Offering a unique blend of raw sexuality and romantic love, thwarted desire and spiritual longing, Everyday Jews is now considered Perle’s consummate achievement.
The voice of Mendl, the novel's 12-year-old narrator, is precisely captured by this artfully simple translation. Mendl's impoverished and dysfunctional family struggles to survive in a nameless Polish provincial town. In his unsettled world, most ordinary people yearn to be somewhere else—or someone else. As Mendl journeys to adulthood, Perle captures the complex interplay of Christians and Jews, weekdays and Sabbaths, town and country, dream and reality, against a relentless and never-ending battle of the sexes.
Yehoshue Perle (1888-1943) was one of Poland’s most popular, controversial, and prolific Yiddish novelists of the interwar—and wartime—period. In his introduction to the novel, David G. Roskies, Sol & Evelyn Henkind Professor of Yiddish Literature at the Jewish Theological Seminary, opens up Perle's tragic life and undiscovered oeuvre to a new generation of readers.
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