Monday, January 13, 2014

Book Review: The Worlds of Sholem Aleichem

Hardcover: 464 pages
Publisher: Schocken (October 8, 2013)

Written by Jeremy Dauber, The Worlds of Sholem Aleichem: The Remarkable Life and Afterlife of the Man Who Created Tevye is the first comprehensive biography on the Jewish version of Mark Twain.  If not for Sholem Aleichem, we'd never have Fiddler on the Roof.

Aleichem was one of the founding giants in modern Yiddish literature.  He was a novelist, playwright, journalist, essayist, and editor.  He created a pantheon of characters that have been immortalized in either books or plays.  Through his short stories and other writings, he provided a window into the world of Eastern European Jewry at a time of changes during the close of the 19th century.

His own story is just as compelling as the fictional lives that he wrote about.  Aleichem was born into poverty, married into wealth but would lose it all during bad luck and a horrible business sense.  It was his decision to start writing in Yiddish that would forever change history.

When he died in 1916, it was news all across the world.  But his fame would grow as the English-speaking world began to discover his work.

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