Translated by Shirley Kumove
Since its original publication in 1935, Ordinary Jews has come to be regarded as one of the masterpieces of Yiddish literature. In his portrayal of the lives of ordinary Polish Jews in a small provincial city at the end of the nineteenth century, Yehoshue Perle offers a glimpse at a way of life that was already changing by the time of the novel’s publication and would soon be brutally exterminated in the Holocaust. Through the eyes of the novel’s young protagonist, Mendl Shonash, we are introduced to an intricate society of housewives, beggars, tailors, doctors, maidservants, tavern keepers, teachers, gravediggers, rabbinical students, and a whole range of people living close to the bottom of the social scale, as well as the various social hierarchies, shady dealings, pretensions, grotesqueries, and superstitions that color and order their world. Like a star whose light is visible to us only light years after its creation, Ordinary Jews provides a glimpse into a particular culture and unique way of life that might otherwise be lost to history.
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