Sholom Aleichem’s The Tevye Shories (1946; Trans. Julius and Frances Butwin, 1965) landed on my TBR thanks to Mel at The Reading Life.
The collection took me some time to read; the translators observe the author’s playfulness in the Yiddish language (Yiddish, rather than Hebrew, so that the “common people” could read the stories) and I felt like I was missing the best jokes. Usually I will read a story every (other) day; this collection would sit about a week before I’d read on.
Even so, the sense of light-heartedness (even twinned with traditional ideas about women’s utility) comes through:
“The Lord wanted to be good to Tevye, so He blessed him with seven female children, that is, seven daughters, each one of them a beauty, all of them good-looking and charming, clever and healthy and sweet-tempered – like young pine trees! Alas, if only they had been as ill-tempered and ugly as scarecrows, it might have been better for them, and certainly healthier for me.”
Then, serendipitously, I was browsing the films in my local library branch and found “Laughing in the Darkness” a 2011 documentary about the author. Because he married into money, he was able to pursue his writing from a young age; all the photographs of him with his notebooks (apparently he was always scribbling – even while just standing around, he would be writing things down) brought an extra dimension to the stories.
Contents: The Bubble Bursts, Modern Children, Another Page from the Song of Songs, Hodel, A Wedding without Musicians, Chava, Schprintze, Tevye Goes to Palestine, The Purim Feast, The Passover Expropriation, Tevye Wins a Fortune, The Enchanted Tailor, A Yom Kippur Scandal, The Fiddle, The Lottery Ticket, The Miracle of Hashono Rabo