First-Ever Translation of Yiddish Stories Set for Release in September
On September 16, 2014 the English-speaking world will, for the first time ever, have access to a short-story collection by the bestselling 19th century Yiddish author Jacob Dinezon - a central figure in modern Yiddish literature who never received appropriate recognition.
The collection, Memories and Scenes: Shtetl, Childhood, Writers, paints a vivid portrait of life in Eastern Europe's 19th century shtetls that is equal parts profound and delightful. Amid poverty and strict adherence to Jewish law and customs, Dinezon's characters struggle to reconcile their heartfelt impulses with strict religious teachings and social norms.
Publisher Scott Davis, an Emmy Award-winning public television producer and Jewish storyteller, discovered Dinezon's work while researching and writing a book of retold Yiddish tales. Intrigued that virtually none of Dinezon's work had ever been translated from Yiddish although Dinezon was as influential in his time as the three renowned classic writers of Yiddish literature - Sholem Abramovitsh, Sholem Aleichem and I. L. Peretz - Davis commissioned translations of four books by Dinezon and several biographical documents.
"While researching 19th century Yiddish writers I was stunned to discover that in addition to the well-known 'big three' - Abramovitsh, Sholem Aleichem and Peretz - a fourth name I'd never heard kept surfacing: Jacob Dinezon. My curiosity piqued and unable to read Yiddish, I commissioned translations of his fiction as well as background documents to learn more about his life and career. From these, I learned that Dinezon was not only a bestselling Yiddish author, he was also a respected, influential member of the Yiddish literary community and a friend and mentor to its top authors - not to mention a prominent defender of children and the poor," says Davis.
"I was immediately taken by Dinezon's work - which helped me reconnect with my own Jewish roots - and was inspired to publish it. My hope is that readers everywhere will enjoy and learn from these stories and that the contemporary Jewish and literary communities will at last gain a long overdue awareness of Dinezon as well as an understanding of why he has not been duly recognized," Davis adds.
Scott Davis founded Jewish Storyteller Press (http://www.jewishstorytellerpress.com) in 2007 to bring 19th century Yiddish stories to today's English-speaking world.
About Memories and Scenes
In Memories and Scenes: Shtetl, Childhood, Writers, a humble tailor finds his voice to speak out against poverty and inequality from the contents of an old whiskey flask. The life of a teenage orphan boy is thrown into turmoil by a matchmaker's relentless pursuit. An old teacher, shunned by the community for his interest in modern mathematics over Torah, comes to understand the poetic beauty of nature from his young artistic student, and an entire town is thrown into chaos by the antics of a sacred community goat.
Dinezon's poignant and provocative characters in Memories and Scenes paint a vivid portrait of late 19th century Eastern European shtetl life and provide readers with a treasure trove of Jewish history, culture and values.
About the Translator
Memories and Scenes was translated from Yiddish in 2004 by Tina Lunson, former administrative director and senior consultant to the Vilnius Program in Yiddish Language and Literature at Vilnius University in Lithuania. It will be published on September 16, 2014.
About Scott Davis
Scott Davis, founder and publisher of Jewish Storyteller Press, is an Emmy Award-winning public television producer and Jewish storyteller. Former executive producer at North Carolina's statewide public television network, where he worked for 22 years, he has produced a variety of television series and documentaries. Davis is the recipient of dozens of awards, including 7 Emmys. He lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.
About Jacob Dinezon
Yiddish novelist and short-story writer Jacob Dinezon was born near Kovno, Lithuania around 1851 and later moved to Warsaw. A prominent figure in the Yiddish and Jewish Enlightenment literary communities there, Dinezon advised the renowned Sholem Aleichem in producing the Jewish literary journal, The Jewish Folk Library, at a time when strict anti-Semitic laws limiting the educational and cultural opportunities for Jews were being implemented in Russian territories, including Poland. With his own resources Dinezon published the eminent author I. L. Peretz' first book of Yiddish stories, Familiar Scenes. He then joined forces with Peretz to produce a series of Jewish holiday publications that served to continue offering literature and information to the Jewish community when Jewish newspapers became prohibited by the Czarist authorities.
Dinezon's most influential book, Yosele ("Little Joseph"), shed light on the cruel corporal punishment used in Jewish elementary schools (cheders) at the time, causing a public uproar that led to sweeping changes in Jewish education and established Dinezon as a defender of Jewish children. After the outbreak of World War I, Dinezon co-founded, with I. L. Peretz, an orphanage in Warsaw to care for the many displaced children arriving from the Russian-German war zone.
In addition to Yosele, Dinezon is the author of several other novels and the story collection Memories and Scenes. He died in Warsaw in August 1919. More about Dinezon is available at http://www.jacobdinezon.com.