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Old 11-30-2012, 06:17 PM   #1
ficbot
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Read a great book on history of Yiddish language

I recently read a great book on the history of the Yiddish language; my partner's parents both grew up in Yiddish-speaking households, and my own family has these roots as well. I think I had these noble ideas that I could learn about the great Yiddish authors and then read them as a way to connect to my heritage.

Well, the book set me straight It talked about how Yiddish was considered, even by its speakers, to be a slang or 'low' language for quite some time. For many years, the only published stuff in Yiddish was religious texts which had been translated from Hebrew or German (both considered 'educated' languages) so that the 'common' people could read it.

By the time Yiddish got respectability, and famous authors, we were on the cusp of World War II, which pretty much ended the whole Yiddish 'civilization.' Sholem Aleichem and I.B. Singer, the two best-known of the 'classic' Yiddish writers, only became famous once they moved to America, and the Yiddish world they wrote about from their childhoods was already pretty much gone.

I know there are modern writers who write in Yiddish as a way of reviving it somewhat; two local Jewish schools here even teach it as a language elective. But my partner's parents, who were raised with that language, are deeply embarrassed by it and I doubt they would ever seek out such a book.

I thought the story was so interesting. I wonder if there are other languages which only have one or two known authors because they died out just as they were hitting their stride and never got the chance to become their full potential.

Anyway, the book is called Yiddish: A Nation of Words by Miriam Weinstein. It's a great read for language buffs
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Old 11-30-2012, 08:23 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by ficbot View Post
I wonder if there are other languages which only have one or two known authors because they died out just as they were hitting their stride and never got the chance to become their full potential.
I don't know the answer to your question.

I do know that very few of the excellent Yiddish novels available in English translation, in paper, are also available as eBooks. Even most of the works of Nobel prize winner I. B. Singer are paper only!

I have good memories of one novel, written in English by an author who usually wrote in Yiddlish, that is available from Project Gutenberg: The Rise of David Levinsky

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/2803

Last edited by SteveEisenberg; 11-30-2012 at 08:26 PM.
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Old 12-01-2012, 06:17 PM   #3
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Amazon has the new version of Leo Rosten's The Joys of Yiddish.
I don't have much experience with Yiddish, being from a small town in Georgia, but I found it at the library and enjoyed it for the jokes and anecdotes.
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