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17 July 2008

I just picked up a good book: The Family Mashber, by Der Nister. Fixing up a little Yiddishkeit...[More:]

Der Nister (1884-1950) was the pen name used by Pinhas Kahanovitch, a Yiddish writer, philosopher, translator, critic, and key figure in modernist literature in Kiev in the 1920s. In 1921, in the wake of the Russian Revolution, Der Nister left Russia and settled in Germany, where he published two collections of stories. In 1927, he returned to the Soviet Union, where his work was declared reactionary by the Soviet regime and its literary critics. He was arrested in 1949 and died in a Soviet prison hospital in 1950.

This book wasn't translated from Yiddish until 1987. Here's an early passage I have an overwhelming urge to share with you. Just one sentence, that's all:

"The day comes into being with the noise of the shopping markets, of the meat-fish-flour-groats-merchants who call out their wares; and the noise of the customers jostling to buy, turning over the various goods and bargaining at the tops of their voices; with the cries of little children whose mothers often bring them to the shopping markets and who frightened by the racket of the place burst into tears; with the sound of dogs who prowl between the legs of the merchants and their customers -- and who frequently receive violent blows -- their legs stepped on or something heavy thrown at their backs -- so that they yelp for pain; with the cries of crippled beggars who also have been in the market from a very early hour, and each of them cries out his particular disability, his blindness, his lameness or whatever other fault, hoping at the top of his voice to waken the market's pity; with the cries of thieves who not infrequently set off a deliberate racket to create a crowding, a jostling, so that in the throng they may more easily take posession of the purses and wallets of strangers; of mad folk who support themselves and regularly spend their nights in the market -- at night, they sleep in the merchants' stalls, and in the morning, with the first market noises, they are assailed by their first seizures of madness, and thereby attract to themselves the first of the compassionate souls who drive off the small mobs that have gathered around to torment them; or they attract those who, on the other hand, have come to torment them even more, and who will continue to tease them for the rest of the day."
Could we do that literal lending library thing, where everyone signs the inside and passes books along?
We must figure a way to duck the cost of shipping with alternative postal services...
posted by ethylene 17 July | 16:29
Hugh Janus, I firmly believe that you are Der Nister, or perhaps der Nister, as in The Nister, or the one who brings the paragraphs.

As in, back when the coal kept the lamps lit well into the night, we would bundle the family up in wool and venture out to meet with der Nister, who would escort us up, up, up so many flights of stairs to his small flat.

There, we would be offered tea and small biscuits or a flavored cookie on holy days. Der Nister would bring us into the back room, where giant shawls covered the windows, and there - oh the books! The books!

We would read until our eyelids felt like iron and only stop when dawn crept around the edges of the shawled windows. Then, der Nister would take us back out to the street, our pockets full of biscuits and our heads full of wonder....
posted by Lipstick Thespian 17 July | 20:27
Thank you, Lipstick Thespian. That's one of the kindest things anyone's ever said about me.

"Der Nister" is Yiddish for "The Hidden One."
posted by Hugh Janus 18 July | 08:03
That is lovely, LT!

I just learned yesterday that Yiddish is written in the Hebrew alphabet.
posted by goo 18 July | 12:52
I sat in sap. Help. || "The Kids in the Shoe" (Fleischer Studios, 1935)