The Oxford Book of Jewish Stories takes us from the mid-1800s right up to the present, encompassing the full spectrum of Jewish writing around the world. The variety of tales captured here is stunning. Readers will find stories such as "A Yom Kippur Scandal" by Sholem Aleichem, the father of Yiddish literature; "Before the Law" by Franz Kafka; "Looking for Mr. Green" by Saul Bellow; "The Spinoza of Market Street" by Isaac Bashevis Singer; and "Midrash on Happiness" by Grace Paley. Stavans has included many pieces by Americans, including such markedly different writers as Cynthia Ozick, Bernard Malamud, Moacyr Seliar, Stanley Elkin, Delmore Schwartz, Dan Jacobson, Francine Prose, Allegra Goodman, and Philip Roth. And here too are pieces from around the globe, by writers no less varied: Isaac Babel, Italo Svevo, Primo Levi, Elias Canetti, Amos Oz, and Danilo Kis. What emerges in the end is proof of an observation by Ba'al Makshoves--that the Jews may have many languages and a dozen
echoes in foreign tongues, but only one literature. And it is one of the finest in the world.
The many marvelous tales that fill The Oxford Book of Jewish Stories affirm that a shared identity can exist without sterile uniformity--and that writers can engage their religious and cultural heritage without losing touch with those rich, complex ambiguities that inhabit the heart.
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