The World of Israel Weissbrem: Novels

Israel Weissbrem, Author
Israel Weissbrem, Author Westview Press $22.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-8133-1631-4
Reviewed on: 01/01/1970
Release date: 01/01/1993
Sacred and secular conflict throughout this pair of novels by late-19th-century Polish-Jewish writer Weissbrem. In Between the Times , Nahum Tobiah, rabbi of a small Lithuanian town, is learned in Hebrew, the sacred language of scripture. His daughter, Tamar, smuggles Yiddish books into the house because she ``craves to learn the vernacular.'' A confrontation follows, and Tamar elopes with her lover Gershon, who has also flouted his father's injunction against worldly knowledge. Here, as in the accompanying novel The Lottery and the Inheritance, Weissbrem explores the tensions of--and the discrimination against--the emerging Jewish middle class in 19th-century eastern Europe. Weissbrem's characterizations can be both witty and prescient. A Polish count explains his anti-Semitism as a ``fashionable'' hatred of this new class of Jews with ``their long, trailing coats'' and their motley Yiddish language. Such insights, as well as Weissbrem's style--which reflects Hebrew's transition from a purely sacred language to a literary one--give his work historical significance. But due to Weissbrem's limited abilities as a storyteller, these novels provide few pleasures for the general reader. (Dec.)
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