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Stempenyu (Art of the Novella)by Sholem Aleichem
Synopses & Reviews
Even the most pious Jew need not shed so many tears over the destruction of Jerusalem as the women were in the habit of shedding when Stempenyu was playing.
The first work of Sholom Aleichem’s to be translated into English—this long out-of-print translation is the only one ever done under Aleichem’s personal supervision—Stempenyu is a prime example of the author’ s hallmark traits: his antic and often sardonic sense of humor, his whip-smart dialogue, his workaday mysticism, and his historic documentation of shtetl life.
Held recently by scholars to be the story that inspired Marc Chagall’s “Fiddler on the Roof” painting (which in turn inspired the play that was subsequently based on Aleichem’s Tevye stories, not this novella), Stempenyu is the hysterical story of a young village girl who falls for a wildly popular klezmer fiddler—a character based upon an actual Yiddish musician whose fame set off a kind of pop hysteria in the shtetl. Thus the story, in this contemporaneous “authorized” translation, is a wonderful introduction to Aleichem’s work as he wanted it read, not to mention to the unique palaver of a nineteenth-century Yiddish rock star.
This funny tale of a fiddler whose music stirs villagers to the heights of romantic frivolity supposedly inspired Chagall's famous "fiddler on the roof"painting. A classic, it is the humorous and touching saga of shtetl life and what happens when one young woman falls for a fiddler as famous as a rock star.
About the Author
Sholem Aleichem, author of classic tales of shteltl life and creator of the famous Tevya charater, was born in Russia in 1859. Fleeing Russian progroms, he settled in New York in 1914 where his wit and writings caused some to call him the "Jewish Mark Twain." He died in Brooklyn, New York in 1916.
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