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Tevye the Dairyman and The Railroad Stories…
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Tevye the Dairyman and The Railroad Stories (Library of Yiddish Classics) (1987)

by Sholem Aleichem, Sholem Aleichem, (Author)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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So who is this Shalom Aleichem and how dare he rip off Fiddler on the Roof? Couldn't he at least come up with some original material?

What?! Oh. I see. I'm being told that... I understand.

If you read "Today's Children" and a few other stories in this volume you'll get the core stories of Fiddler on the Roof with lots of extra details. It's great! Tevye in the original Shalom Aleichem (pen name of Solomon Naumovich Rabinovich) has a bit more vinegar, drinks a good bit more, and throws around the nonsense Talmud with even greater abandon than he does on film. He's dirtier, and poorer too. But the spirit that actor Chaim Topol brought to the film's character is still spot on. Shalom Aleichem's Tevye is a man with a good heart and a world of troubles, who will endure this world's trials with sharp humor. The words he speaks and the attitudes he cultivates are his survival secret and Shalom Aleichem's magic. Was Shalom Aleichem the "Jewish Mark Twain"? Yeah, I think it fits.

Sometimes the details are almost too much. I imagine that the endless detail of the originals was a valued part of the experience in 1890 or 1900 when first published. The same leisurely pace in 2012 is occasionally tiresome. I didn't read every story, or even every word of some of the stories that I did read, but I enjoyed the experience. Like any American Jew who has seen Fiddler on the Roof more than once, and who has never read much of Shalom Aleichem, I could only read these stories with the film version playing in my mind, helplessly noticing when the text overlapped the film (really, vice versa), and when it ran off in its own playful direction.

Watching the hash Tevye makes of Hebrew phrases (presented in transliteration) is one of the special delights for those who know a little Hebrew, but not being able to do so takes away little from the overall pleasure. Having recently re-watched Fiddler on the Roof, now a basic cultural artifact of American Jewish life, with my children it was a delight to return to the source material and experience Shalom Aleichem's world in three dimensions and high definition. ( )
  hereandthere | Apr 8, 2013 |
A Stanford Book Salon selection for 2012-2013. I cannot speak for others, but for my own part, this book is an emotional journey into my heritage. The village Tevye is from, if real, would have been directly on top of the one my maternal grandparents were from. Since my mother's death a few years ago, I've had no one with whom to speak Yiddish. Now, I have Tevye. Plus, I found the copy I'm reading in a box of my mother's, with several other books of Aleichem's, letters from my grandparents (in Yiddish), and other memorabilia from the old country. I'm far too lost in my own history to be much use of anything in any Salon discussion right now. But I am loving all this book has brought me.
  bookczuk | Dec 3, 2012 |
Tevye is a pious dairyman living in Tsarist Russia where he works to support his wife and six daughters (the number continually changes depending on which story you are reading, but I find it humorous). The stories of Tevye the Dairyman focus on his fortunes and dramatic misfortunes as well as the lives (specifically the "love lives") of his daughters. Always ready with a half-quote from the Torah (the other half typically clarifies the first part, while only stating the first part translates to negative comments and silly phrases), Tevye is on constant alert of ways in which to make not only money, but a LOT of money. He dreams big and seizes every opportunity that presents itself, which often lands him in a heap of trouble.
  Kyle_Peters | Oct 13, 2012 |
With his supple, intelligent translation, Halkin makes accessible the poignant short stories by the legendary Yiddish humorist Sholem Rabinovich (18591916), who wrote under the nom de plume "Sholem Aleichem," a Yiddish salutation. As Halkin elucidates in his introduction, Tevye's self-mocking but deeply affecting monologues (which inspired the play and film Fiddler on the Roof satisfy on several levels:
  TempleofIsrael | May 23, 2010 |
This collection of short stories is really two separate collections put together: the Tevye the Dairyman Stories, and the Railroad Stories. The first set comprises the short stories that were the inspiration for the Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof. Written over a span of twenty years, these stories offer fragments of Tevye's life as he comes to terms with the changing times and the growth of his daughters. The Railroad Stories do not feature Tevye, and are instead a disjointed collection of narratives it seems Sholem Aleichem has collected on his many travels by railroad throughout Europe. There's no overwhelming theme to these collected stories, except perhaps koyl yisro'el khaveyrim ("all Jews are brethren") -- wherever you go, a Jew is a Jew.

I was surprised to find that Tevye's world in these stories is so different from what is portrayed in Fiddler on the Roof (the play and the movie). For one thing, society is much more varied, and there are Jews on all levels and in all sorts of roles, not only in the shtetl living as peasants. Secularization plays a much more significant role in these stories than the play/movie would suggest, and Tevye finds himself straddling the gap between the religious and secular world even more precariously. Speaking of precarious, though, there's a noticeable lack of any fiddling; the image of the rooftop fiddler, Halkin's introduction explains, actually comes from a Marc Chagall painting.

Perhaps the most colorful element of this collection is the language used. I really have to commend Halkin's translation -- it does a marvelous job of capturing the "feel" of Yiddish as I remember my grandparents speaking it. Halkin also does a great job of navigating the blended Yiddish, Russian, Polish, and Hebrew to craft a translation that keeps the essence not only of the meaning, but of Sholem Aleichem's famous wordplay and colorful turns of phrase. I don't read nearly enough Yiddish to be able to read the original and offer a line-by-line comparison to endorse the translation more fully, but this translation certainly had the right "feel," and evokes images of the world that so many immigrant Jews left behind to move to America (and elsewhere) at the turn of the last century. No wonder Sholem Aleichem received such a warm reception here when he emigrated!
  Eneles | Jul 25, 2009 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sholem Aleichemprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sholem Aleichem,Authormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Halkin, HillelTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
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If you're meant to strike it rich, Pani Sholem Aleichem, you may as well stay home with your slippers on, because good luck will find you there too.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805210695, Paperback)

Of all the characters in modern Jewish fiction, the most beloved is Tevye, the compassionate, irrepressible, Bible-quoting dairyman from Anatevka, who has been immortalized in the writings of Sholem Aleichem and in acclaimed and award-winning theatrical and film adaptations.

And no Yiddish writer was more beloved than Tevye’s creator, Sholem Rabinovich (1859–1916), the “Jewish Mark Twain,” who wrote under the pen name of Sholem Aleichem. Beautifully translated by Hillel Halkin, here is Sholem Aleichem’s heartwarming and poignant account of Tevye and his daughters, together with the “Railroad Stories,” twenty-one tales that examine human nature and modernity as they are perceived by men and women riding the trains from shtetl to shtetl.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:18:37 -0400)

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