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The I.L. Peretz Reader by I.L. Peretz {Excerpt}

The I.L. Peretz Reader by I.L. Peretz {Excerpt}

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Published by OpenRoadMedia
Isaac Leybush Peretz (1852–1915) is one of the most influential figures of modern Jewish culture. Born in Poland and dedicated to Yiddish culture, he recognized that Jews needed to adapt to their times while preserving their cultural heritage, and his captivating and beautiful writings explore the complexities inherent in the struggle between tradition and the desire for progress. This book, which presents a memoir, poem, travelogue, and twenty-six stories by Peretz, also provides a detailed essay about Peretz’s life by Ruth R. Wisse. This edition of the book includes, as well, Peretz’s great visionary drama A Night in the Old Marketplace, in a rhymed, performable translation by Hillel Halkin.
Isaac Leybush Peretz (1852–1915) is one of the most influential figures of modern Jewish culture. Born in Poland and dedicated to Yiddish culture, he recognized that Jews needed to adapt to their times while preserving their cultural heritage, and his captivating and beautiful writings explore the complexities inherent in the struggle between tradition and the desire for progress. This book, which presents a memoir, poem, travelogue, and twenty-six stories by Peretz, also provides a detailed essay about Peretz’s life by Ruth R. Wisse. This edition of the book includes, as well, Peretz’s great visionary drama A Night in the Old Marketplace, in a rhymed, performable translation by Hillel Halkin.

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Published by: OpenRoadMedia on Oct 15, 2013
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10/24/2013

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I.L. Peretz
THE I.L. PERETZ READER 
Short Stories
 Peretz was best known as a writer of short stories, many of which were written for the miscellanies and periodicals that heedited and published himself. In the early 1890s he begancontributing to the socialist Yiddish newspapers that had been founded in the United States, and when the Yiddish daily pressexploded in Poland at the beginning of the twentieth century, hewas one of its most sought-after contributors. He also wrotestories in Hebrew, and translated or supervised the translationof his work from one language to the other.
Peretz used the story form for the most diverse ends. He wrote mood pieces to express a gnawing dissatisfaction thatafflicted him all his life. His sharp exposures of poverty andsuffering introduced a new standard of realism into Yiddishliterature. He wrote satires, skirting the censor through the useof fables or veiled allusions. By the turn of the century Peretz wasless concerned about abuses within Jewish society, the mainfocus of his writing in the 1890s, than he was about defectionsfrom Jewish society on the part of young Jews espousinginternationalist ideologies or simply drifting into assimilation.He wrote stories dramatizing the moral attainments of theJewish way of life, the vigor of Jewish debate, the charm of Jewish folklore, the troubling grandeur of Jewish history.
 
I.L. Peretz
THE I.L. PERETZ READER 
In an attempt to explain the contradictory impulses inPeretz’s writing, some critics have tried to periodize the stories,tracing a progression from the radical Peretz of the early periodto the neoromantic of the later years. Although Peretz didconstantly shift his attention to whatever problems seemed mostimmediate, all his work was characterized by a dialecticaltension between the romantic and rational impulses of hischaracter, between cosmopolitan, worldly yearnings andpractical Jewish concerns, between personal erotic desire andpublic accountability. These struggles are not always resolved inthe stories, even in those that appear to be most pointed andstraightforward.Like all Yiddish writers of his generation, Peretz struggledto find a natural narrative voice in what was still a raw literary language. In the story “Stories” he treats the psychological andcreative dilemma of the estranged Jewish writer who cannot write authentically for either Jews or Gentiles. But even thenarrators of such apparently folkish stories as “Three Gifts” or “If Not Higher” stand somewhat apart from the worlds they aredescribing, and comment on their subjects from various anglesand degrees of distance. The final story of the collection, “YomKippur in Hell,” may be read as a parable of the modern writer who happens to have a “divine” voice, an accidental asset that heturns into a moral cause.The stories appear in the order of their originalappearance in Yiddish, with dates given. In the case of twostories that originally appeared in somewhat different form inHebrew, the translations are based on the Yiddish version, and both dates are supplied.

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