I’m seriously behind on my postings now thus my post Will be brief. I Will draw from the brilliant preface done by the translator Jordan Finkin.
The People of Godlbozhitis, at 602 pages, is a large scale collage of the lives of the people, say around 1920 in an imaginary Polish town. Most of the residents are Yiddish speaking Jews but the very large cast of characters also includes Polish Catholics, Russians, and other groups. It is not a one plot line novel. Almost every chapter starts and finishes a story. Some chapters Focus on rich bankers, others on the poorest. Personal connections are very important. The conversation are wonderful and feel very real to me. There is humour and heartbreak. Some dedicate their lives to extended their extended Family. Others live off their in laws.
I was kindly given a Review copy of this book. Everyone into Yiddish needs to add this book to their list. I offer my thanks to Professor Finkin for this translation. There are also lots of very illuminating footnotes that I found very useful and edifying.
“Leyb Rashkin (pen name of Shol Fridman; 1903/4–39) was born in the shtetl Kuzmir (in Polish, Kazimierz Dolny nad Wisłą), the prototype for the shtetl Godlbozhits.2While writing short stories on the side, he had several jobs, including as administrator for a Jewish cooperative bank, an institution that figures prominently and critically in the novel. The People of Godlbozhits, Rashkin’s only novel, was published in 1936 and won the Peretz Prize of the Polish Jewish PEN club in 1938.3Rashkin would ultimately perish while fleeing the Nazis to the Soviet Union. What he left behind was a remarkable microcosmic depiction of a shtetl—indeed, in the words of one critic,“civilization”—one that would soon cease to exist. Why this book languishes unfairly in obscurity is a good but not a difficult question. Historically speaking, the Second World War and the author’s death at its outset were not, shall we say, auspicious. A six-hundred-page book, moreover, will always be something of a challenge. But of course, translation is key. Without a readership, all works will wither. As Mikhail Krutikov notes Of two debuts that were awarded literary prizes—the seventeenthcentury historical fantasy Der sotn in Goray(Satan in Goray; serialized in 1933; published in book form 1935) by Isaac Bashevis Singer and the realistic shtetl novel Di mentshn fun Godl-bozhits (The People of Godl-bozhits; 1936) by Leyb Rashkin—one became famous as the first step in the most successful Yiddish literary career of the twentieth century, whereas the other fell into oblivion because its author perished in the Holocaust.” from The translator’s preface