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Yiddish Folktales

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About the Author

Editor BEATRICE SILVERMAN WEINREICH (1928-2008) was for many years a research associate at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York and coeditor of the journal Yiidisher Folklor. She published many articles in academic journals on Yiddish culture and folklore. Translator LEONARD WOLF is the author of the novels The Glass Mountain and The False Messiah, and of Bluebeard: The Life and Crimes of Gilles de Rais. Among his translations from Yiddish are The Certificate by Isaac Bashevis Singer and The Family Mashber by Der Nister.


The repetitive nature, didacticism and brevity (some are a mere paragraph long) of its tales limits the appeal of this newest volume in Pantheon's Fairy Tale and Folklore Library; it has considerable value as a reference tool but not as an absorbing collection of short stories. Weinreich, a research associate at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York, culls from YIVO's archives 178 examples of moral allegories, religious stories with ethical messages, children's, fairy and humorous tales, and legends of saints, villains and supernatural demons. Much here has a Jewish flavor: rabbis and Elijah the Prophet people stories set on Passover, Sukkoth or the Sabbath. But one is also struck by the similarity of many of these tales to those gathered by the Brothers Grimmreaders will wish for greater documentation of dates and sources and more analytical material comparing this work and its elements to others in the folklore genre, as well as discussing its place in Yiddish literature. (Nov).

"Sheer enchantment--a wonderful collection of stories, jokes, legends, parables, and fairy tales full of wit and cleverness, certain to delight both those to whom it recalls an immediate past and those to whom it introduces an unfamiliar world." --Irving Howe "As host of the National Public Radio series Jewish Short Stories from Eastern Europe and Beyond, I had the opportunity to rediscover the joys of Yiddish literature. Many of the translations that we used were taken from Schocken's excellent Library of Yiddish Classics--a series that brings together a body of work that is very much alive and continues to dazzle us with its brilliance, wit, and humanity." --Leonard Nimoy "Filled with homey Eastern European Yiddish truths refracted through the colorful prism of fantasy and fancy, Yiddish Folktales evokes the vitality of a distant yet immediate realm, and thus re-creates it." --The New York Times Book Review "This gem of a collections open a breathtaking vista upon a vibrant world now lost to us." --Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, New York University

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