Letters of Menakhem-Mendl and Sheyne-Sheyndl and Motl, the Cantor's Son

December 9, 2020
Letters of Menakhem-Mendl and Sheyne-Sheyndl and Motl, the Cantor's Son

This volume presents an outstanding new translation of twofavorite comic novels by the preeminent Yiddish writer SholemAleichem (1859–1916). The Letters of Menakhem Mendl and SheyneSheyndl portrays a tumultuous marriage through letters exchangedbetween the title character, an itinerant bumbler seeking hisfortune in the cities of Russia before departing alone for the NewWorld, and his scolding wife, who becomes increasingly fearful,jealous, and mystified. Motl, Peysi the Cantor's Son is thefirst-person narrative of a mischievous and keenly observant boywho emigrates with his family from Russia to America. The finalthird of the story takes place in New York, making this Aleichem'sonly major work to be set in the United States. Motl andMenakhem Mendl are in one sense opposites: the one a clear-eyedchild and the other a pathetically deluded adult. Yet both areideal conveyors of the comic disparity of perception on which humordepends. If Motl sees more than do others around him, MenakhemMendl has an almost infinite capacity for seeing less. Aleichemendows each character with an individual comic voice to tell in hisown way the story of the collapse of traditional Jewish life inmodern industrial society as well as the journey to America, wherea new chapter of Jewish history begins. This volume includes abiographical and critical introduction as well as a useful glossaryfor English language readers.