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Songs for the Butcher's Daughter (2009)

by Peter Manseau

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3692170,998 (3.96)19
Summer, sweltering, 1996. A book warehouse in western Massachusetts. A man at the beginning of his adult life -- and the end of his career rope -- becomes involved with a woman, a language, and a great lie that will define his future. Most auspiciously of all, he runs across Itsik Malpesh, a ninetysomething Russian immigrant who claims to be the last Yiddish poet in America. When a set of accounting ledgers in which Malpesh has written his memoirs surfaces -- twenty-two volumes brimming with adventure, drama, deception, passion, and wit -- the young man is compelled to translate them, telling Malpesh's story as his own life unfolds, and bringing together two paths that coincide in shocking and unexpected ways.--from Publisher description (http://www.loc.gov/catdir/enhancements/fy0838/2007049787-d.html)… (more)
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» See also 19 mentions

English (18)  Dutch (2)  German (1)  All languages (21)
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
Itsik Malpesh is a poet and a dreamer who writes endlessly about his true love, Sasha, whom he has yet to meet. When Itsik's poems get him into trouble in czarist Russia, he begins an odyssey -- with a picture of his beloved Sasha in his coat. Her image stays with him as he labors at a small print shop in Odessa and through a long, hazardous passage to America. And it keeps him company until he settles in New York's garment district. In fact, Sasha stays with Itsik until the eve of his first public appearance as a poet, when she appears in person, as if by magic. But their happiness together is short-lived -- Sasha leaves him before the birth of their first child
Years later, a young man in Boston who toils at preserving Yiddish books responds to an urgent call from New York, where he meets the elderly Malpesh, in need of a translator for his life story. In weaving together Itsik's tale of colorful characters, the two stumble upon an unlikely connection neither could have foreseen. A tale of love -- of homeland, a new country, a girl, and a culture -- Songs for the Butcher's Daughter is a novel about the way history is captured for the ages through the lives and words of seemingly "average" men.

Songs for the Butcher's Daughter by Peter Manseau. (2008, September 9). Retrieved from https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2214742.Songs_for_the_Butcher_s_Daughter.
  MRS1973 | Oct 20, 2019 |
This is a really special book, in the vein of History of Love. It is written by a catholic (son of a former nun and a still-priest!!) Peter Manseau was turned on to Yiddish by an African American pastor, and has turned his love for the ancient , dying language into a poetic story. See the Jeff Sharlat (?) review in Goodreads for a more personal background write-up, he is friends with the author. He also gives background into the history of Yiddish lit, and the efforts to keep the language alive.

The story is very engaging, and tells the love story of a boy in Russia who eventually winds up in America. It is NOT heavy and depressing, but quick moving and lighthearted. The novel has a predictable, not trite, and yet tear inducing ending. ( )
  Rdra1962 | Aug 1, 2018 |
I won't summarize the plot, which has been done by others, but I found this to be an unusual but very interesting story and very well written. The book has two protoganists: the first, who, like the author, is not Jewish but becomes fascinated by Yiddish and almost by accident becomes caretaker of a Yiddish library. The second is an aged Yiddish poet, Itsik Malpesh, self-styled as the "last Yiddish poet in America," whose memoir the first is translating, whose story within the story is a remarkable tale spanning the time from life in Kishinev, Russia, to the "present" time in Baltimore. It is a sensitive portrayal of human folly and passion, from the pogrom into which he was born through WWII, until the present. Although some events seem unbelievable, sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, and this work of fiction embodied a strain of great truths. ( )
  MidwestGeek | Dec 29, 2017 |
I liked this book for what I learned about people coming to the US to avoid pogroms in Russia. The writing was ok, not great, and a lot of the book was unbelievable, but I thought it was worth it for what I learned. The author showed a warmth for his characters. ( )
  suesbooks | Apr 28, 2016 |
Although I was disappointed by the ending, I loved the rest of this book. ( )
  aglater | Apr 9, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Manseau, Peterprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Horn, Miebeth vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
a manuscript, and another manuscript,entwined, bound together, wrapping each other---letters and more letters, in love.--- from "The God of Israel" by A. Leyeles
Dedication
First words
The collaboration between Itsik Malpesh and myself is perhaps one of the more unlikely literary associations in recent memory.
Quotations
"... You have already within you all the knowledge necessary for living. It's only a matter of unlocking it...." [p. 60]
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Summer, sweltering, 1996. A book warehouse in western Massachusetts. A man at the beginning of his adult life -- and the end of his career rope -- becomes involved with a woman, a language, and a great lie that will define his future. Most auspiciously of all, he runs across Itsik Malpesh, a ninetysomething Russian immigrant who claims to be the last Yiddish poet in America. When a set of accounting ledgers in which Malpesh has written his memoirs surfaces -- twenty-two volumes brimming with adventure, drama, deception, passion, and wit -- the young man is compelled to translate them, telling Malpesh's story as his own life unfolds, and bringing together two paths that coincide in shocking and unexpected ways.--from Publisher description (http://www.loc.gov/catdir/enhancements/fy0838/2007049787-d.html)

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Door zijn werk in een immens archief ontmoet een katholieke Bostonse jongen, net eenentwintig geworden en afgestudeerd, Itsik Malpesj, een Russische Jood van in de negentig die beweert de laatste Jiddische dichter in Amerika te zijn. Hij ontvangt van hem 22 grote registerboeken, niet gevuld met cijfers, maar met de memoires van Malpesj in het Jiddisch. Die memoires barsten van de avonturen, drama's, teleurstellingen, gevaren passie en humor, en hij besluit de ongehoord moeilijke taak op zich te nemen om ze te vertalen. Terwijl het leven en de geschiedenis van Itsik en de zijnen stukje bij beetje aan de openbaarheid worden prijsgegeven, ontvouwt zich ook de levensloop van de vertaler.

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