The I.L.Peretz Reader

Ruth R. Wisse, Editor, Isaac Leib Peretz, Author Schocken Books Inc $27.5 (381p) ISBN 978-0-8052-4067-2
This second volume in the Library of Yiddish Classics series includes 26 familiar stories by the master storyteller and social critic (1852-1915); most of them benefit from new translations. Peretz was a giant of Yiddish literature who advocated a radical shift from religious observance (especially the mysticism of Hasidism) to the rationalism of scientific progress and secular Jewish culture. But he could not escape his roots entirely; in his writings as in his life, he shows affection for his co-religionists. In ``If Not Higher,'' a skeptic comes to believe that a humble Hasidic rebbe is worthy of sainthood. In ``Venus and Shulamith'' Peretz extols the virtuous maiden of the Song of Songs over the licentious Venus of Greek mythology, demonstrating his mastery of both biblical texts and classical literature. Two major entries--``My Memoirs'' and the vignettes titled ``Impressions of a Journey''--are here in their first unabridged English translation. The former is a vivid portrait of growing up orthodox in mid-19th century Poland. Each vignette in ``Journey'' is a story in itself: Peretz depicts grinding poverty side by side with belief in miracles, and demonstrates a stoic acceptance of life's realities. His works stand in brilliantly evocative tribute to a bygone era. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/31/1990
Release date: 11/01/1990
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 461 pages - 978-0-300-09245-5
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