Sholem Aleichem is perhaps the most pre-eminent name in Yiddish literature, and among the immediate figures that come to mind in Jewish writing in general. Fiddler on the Roof, based on Sholem Aleichem's endeared Tevye the dairyman and the longest-running performance on Broadway, sealed the Yiddish writer's name in North American pop culture.
Dubbed the Jewish Mark Twain (Mark Twain would respond, calling himself the American Sholem Aleichem) and deemed "a worthy heir to Gogol," the iconic Yiddish author and his influence is explored in a new biography, The Worlds of Sholem Aleichem: The Remarkable Life and Afterlife of the Man Who Created Tevye by Jeremy Dauber.
Sholem Rabinovich was born in 1859 in Ukraine, at a time when the so-called Haskalah, the Jewish enlightenment, was growing and adversely altering the Yiddish-speaking world of Eastern Europe. The young Rabinovich aspired to be a writer, witnessed how a new body of literature and art was emerging in that "jargon" called Yiddish, and adopted the pen name Sholem Aleichem, a traditional greeting meaning "peace be upon you." He could have easily been one of the characters that shape his fiction, having come from an impoverished childhood, married into wealth, and lost everything.
Writing with a notion of "laughter through tears," Sholem Aleichem's works spoke to his Yiddish-speaking brethren, addressing the hardships and discrimination his people often faced in the old country, tales that came with a unique dash of humour, layered in critical thought and gems of wisdom. He was so popular that at one time he was writing simultaneous premieres for two competing Yiddish theatres in New York City. When he died in 1916, his funeral was one of the largest New York had ever seen. But the Sholem Aleichem story doesn't stop there. The biography looks at the amazing afterlife of Sholem Aleichem in English translation, and beyond.
The Worlds of Sholem Aleichem, hailed as the "first comprehensive biography" on the beloved author, is a finely-written work, illuminating a Yiddish-speaking world coloured in a certain joy, of course sorrow, and yet still touches so many Jewish North Americans. The book makes for a wonderful gift on the Hanukkah holiday.
Javier Marias' name is rarely mentioned without the possibility of a future Nobel Prize win being brought up soon after. Roberto Bolaņo called him "by far Spain's best writer today." So why is his name so obscure in North America? Anyone I know who has read him becomes a devoted follower and waits impatiently for the next book. Marias' work is unusual in that the novels aren't so much about what happens, although plenty may happen, but what is caused by those events. Two of his favourite themes are espionage and translation, and so not surprisingly miscommunications, misunderstandings, and questions of identity are often explored in his novels. Both spies and translators, along with a dose of the Spanish Civil War, are at play in what is probably his masterpiece, the three part trilogy Your Face Tomorrow, made up of the novels Fever and Spear, Dance and Dream, and Poison, Shadow, and Farewell. However, his latest novel, Infatuations, does not involve spies or translators. Nevertheless it explores similar possibilities for multiple perspectives and meanings that inhabit the space in between people. Not wanting to give too much away, let's just say that people meet, a man is killed, and then Marias teases out, sentence by sentence, how they respond. He is a master at dropping a metaphorical stone in the water and then playing out the subtle emotional and psychological ripples that result. I recommend him very highly.
—written by co-owner Chris Hall
Tsypkin worked as a pathologist in Soviet Russia. He was not considered a writer, merely indulging in the art after dark. There were no attempts at publishing the work in his own country. The narrative was too absurd and his accusations against the government too overt. Abandoning all hopes of publication, Tsypkin granted himself the ultimate freedom: to write and reach the centre. And the untimely centre is where he died. Luckily, his work survived with his son and was finally published twenty years after his death.
Mary Ruefle declares, "in the worst windstorms only the most delicate things survive." And how profoundly fragile these things are. Tsypkin's novel Summer in Baden-Baden is unlike anything I have ever read. He shatters all that I have learned about writing, personal and collective history. The novel opens with the narrator travelling to Leningrad by train to visit his aunt. In tandem, Fyodor and Anna Dostoevsky are departing for Germany. The narrator, a man twice denied permission to leave the Soviet Union, and Fyodor, the exiled writer, seem to share the same platform, a matching psychological interior. The narrator is dancing on the tightrope to infinity; he is Leonid and Fyodor and me and everybody that has ever dared to stick their head out of a window. The English translation of The Bridge over the Neroch and Other Works was released in early 2013. This collection appears to hold the last of his writing. With this last I too hope to reach the centre.
—written by bookseller Noor Bhangu
This article was adapted from the September/October edition of our newsletter, The Bookseller. You can access the full newsletter online by clicking here. Be sure to also check out our holiday catalogue, Books of the Season, available now online or in-store for free.Categories: Authors, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Literature
The various winners of the Governor General's Award for 2013 have been announced. As follows, the winners are:
• Eleanor Catton: Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction for The Luminaries
• Sandra Djwa: Governor-General's Award for non-fiction for Journey with No Maps: A Life of P.K. Page
• Nicolas Billon: Governor General's Award for Drama for Fault Lines: Greenland - Iceland - Faroe
• Teresa Toten: Governor General's Award for children's literature (text) for The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B
• Matt James: Governor General's Award for children's literature (illustration) for Northwest Passage
• Donald Winkler: Governor General's Award for Translation for The Major Verbs, a translation of a book by Quebec's Pierre Nepveu.
• And of special note is the winner of the Governor General's Award for Poetry: Winnipeg author Katherena Vermette won for her collection entitled North End Love Songs.
Congratulations to all of the winners!
Governor General David Johnston will present the awards, each worth $25,000, on November 28th in Ottawa. The publisher of each winning book receives $3,000 to support promotional activities, and non-winning finalists receive $1,000. You can find more details on the GG Awards by clicking here.Categories: Awards, Authors, Saskatoon, Winnipeg
Our November Author of the Month is Amy Tan.
Amy Tan is the author of The Joy Luck Club, The Kitchen God's Wife, The Hundred Secret Senses, and two children's books, The Moon Lady and The Chinese Siamese Cat, which has been adapted as Sagwa, a PBS series for children. Tan was also the co-producer and co-screenwriter of the film version of The Joy Luck Club, and her essays and stories have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. Her work has been translated into more than twenty-five languages. Tan, who has a master's degree in linguistics from San Jose University, has worked as a language specialist to programs serving children with developmental disabilities.
The Valley of Amazement is Tan's newest book. Spanning fifty years and two continents, The Valley of Amazement sweeps the reader along a deeply moving narrative of family secrets, the legacies of traumas, and the profound connections between mothers and daughters, returning readers to the compelling territory Tan so expertly mapped in The Joy Luck Club. With her characteristic wisdom, grace and humour, Tan conjures up a story of the inheritance of love, its mysteries and senses, its illusions and truths.Categories: Authors, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Author of the Month
Don Newman, who cut his teeth as a print and broadcast journalist in Winnipeg and Regina in the 1960s, went on to become the senior parliamentary editor for CBC Television in a career that spanned almost 50 years before he retired in 2009. Candid, honest and often funny, one of Canada's most respected political commentators shares decades of insights and experiences in his first book, Welcome to the Broadcast.
As Commander of the International Space Station, Chris Hadfield captivated the world with stunning photos and commentary from space. Now, in his first book, An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth, he offers readers not just the inspiring story of one man's journey to the ISS, but the opportunity to step into his space-boots and think like an astronaut -- and readers can renew their commitment to pursuing their own dreams, big or small.
Joe Clark's How We Lead: Canada in a Century of Change is a passionate argument for Canada's reassertion of its place on the world stage, from a former prime minister and one of Canada's longest-serving political figures. In a compelling examination of what Canada can yet be to the world, Clark takes the reader beyond formal foreign policy and looks at the contributions and leadership offered by Canada's most successful individuals and organizations.
This article was adapted from the September/October edition of our newsletter, The Bookseller. You can access the full newsletter online by clicking here. Or you can pick up a free print edition in either of our stores.Categories: buzz, Authors, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Event News, New Releases
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