Book of Fables: The Yiddish Fable Collection of Reb Moshe Wallich, Frankfurt Am Main, 1697

Reb Moshe Walich, Author, Eli Katz, Editor Wayne State University Press $44.95 (306p) ISBN 978-0-8143-2449-3
A rare gem of a book, this bilingual (English and Hebrew) volume makes available the Sefer Mesholim (Book of Fables), a Yiddish anthology of fables published in Germany in 1697 by Moses ben Eliezar Wallich. The 34 fables, derived mainly from Greek (Aesop) and Arabic sources as well as medieval Hebrew and German tales, feature both human and animal characters. Typical are an adulterous young wife who is blackmailed by her lover and a wealthy man who gorges on food while a supplicating beggar nearly starves. Irony, humor, trenchant social observation and vivid description of Jewish custom and daily life pervade the stories, which flail greed, false piety, deceit, sloth and hypocrisy. In one, a stork prepares kreplech (boiled dumplings) and other Jewish delicacies for his guest, a wily fox. Katz's literal, lively translation, though it abandons the rhyme and meter of the Yiddish texts, conveys their yeasty, conversational flavor. Included are 115 facsimiles of the original pages, which feature charming woodcut illustrations and beautiful typography. Katz, a translator of I.L. Peretz's stories, provides a scholarly introduction establishing the social setting and linguistic framework of the stories in this volume. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 05/30/1994
Release date: 06/01/1994
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