A Collection of Stories by Blume Lempel (USA)

 

A collection of stories by an accomplished Yiddish writer now appears in English for the first time

This is the first English-language collection of the best stories by Blume Lempel (1907–1999). While many of her stories opened a window on the Old World and the Holocaust, she also wrote about the margins of society, about subjects considered untouchable, among them abortion, prostitution, women's erotic imaginings, and even incest. She illuminated the inner lives of her characters—mostly women. Her storylines migrate between past and present, Old World and New, dream and reality, modern-day New York and prewar Poland, bedtime story and passionate romance, and old-age dementia and girlhood dreams.

Immigrating to New York when Hitler rose to power, Blume Lempel began publishing her short stories in 1945. By the 1970s her work had become known throughout the Yiddish literary world. When she died in 1999, the Yiddish paper Forverts wrote: "Yiddish literature has lost one of its most remarkable women writers."

Ellen Cassedy is author of the award-winning study We Are Here, about the Lithuanian Holocaust. With her colleague Yermiyahu Ahron Taub, they received the Yiddish Book Center 2012 Translation Prize for translating Blume Lempel."

Yermiyahu Ahron Taub is the author of several books of poetry, including Prayers of a Heretic/Tfiles fun an apikoyres (2013), Uncle Feygele (2011), and What Stillness Illuminated/Vos shtilkayt hot baloykhtn (2008).


PRAISE FOR OEDIPUS IN BROOKLYN AND OTHER STORIES

“A collection of stories by an accomplished Yiddish writer now appears in English for the first time. These stories are a remarkable achievement. This volume combines the two books of stories Lempel (1907-1999) published during her lifetime; much of her work appeared in Yiddish newspapers and remains uncollected. Lempel described female desire, abortion, and incest, among other things, at a time when very few other writers were willing to take on such subjects… With shrewdness, wit, and lyricism, Lempel gives voice to the women, the aging, the ill, and others who, from the margins of modern society, have had trouble making themselves heard.” Kirkus Reviews

Oedipus in Brooklyn gathers stories and personal essays from Blume Lempel, a Yiddish-speaking refugee who escaped the Holocaust in America but who never stopped writing about its impact upon her family and community. Stories throughout the collection are searing, both defiantly vibrant and achingly brutal, and cover topics from madness to beginning again, always with masterful attention to detail….Lempel’s lines work to make ravaged land flourish again, and what flowers forth is both lovely and heartbreaking. These are stories that deserve a cherished place in the canon of Jewish literature.” Michelle Anne Schingler, Foreword Reviews

“Your forthcoming publication of a Blume Lempel short story collection is a splendid surprise and a significant revivification of a brilliantly robust Yiddish-American writer: why should Isaac Bashevis Singer and Chaim Grade monopolize this rich literary lode? Cynthia Ozick, author of The Puttermesser Papers, The Shawl, The Messiah of Stockholm, and many other fine works of fiction and nonfiction.

Oedipus in Brooklyn and Other Stories gives English readers an unprecedented opportunity to delve into a substantial body of prose by Blume Lempel, an unusual and important voice in post–World War II Yiddish letters. The thematic and stylistic scope of her writing…is wide and richly integrated. Stories mingle the prewar East European past with the American present, personal memories and encounters with a provocative range of larger issues—memory, religion, sexuality, race, feminism, good and evil, death.” Jeffrey Shandler, author of Adventures in Yiddishland: Postvernacular Language and Culture

“From Poland to Tel Aviv to Brooklyn, in lyrical prose, Lempel’s stories give voice to memory, longing, and loss in the rich tradition of Jewish storytelling. Lempel’s…Jewish storytelling, illustrates, as one of her characters puts it: ‘No world language is comparable to Yiddish, to the Yiddish sigh, the Yiddish sense of humor.’” Victoria Aarons, The O. R. and Eva Mitchell Distinguished Professor of Literature, Trinity University, and editor of The New Diaspora: The Changing Landscape of American Jewish Fiction

“Blume Lempel died at the end of the last century, leaving a remarkable legacy that this beautifully translated volume finally makes accessible to a wider audience…She writes about the erotic and intellectual life of (mostly) women and men, their psychological and historical motivations, the horror of the Holocaust and the desire to renew life even as one mourns. For these characters, as for Lempel herself, writing, thinking, lamenting, and loving in Yiddish is a vital expression of the will to live.” Anita Norich, Frankel Center for Judaic Studies, University of Michigan, author of Writing in Tongues: Translating Yiddish in the 20th Century

“In all twenty-three of her collected stories Blume Lempel conducts a conversation across multiple time zones and spheres. She talks to Moses and Galileo; to the insects, birds, and primates; to the forests and fields; to the sun, stars, moon—and moon landing. Even as her memorable cast of characters relive their childhood and first love; even as they make breakfast, go out on a date, marvel at Yosemite Park or get caught in a blizzard, their minds are short-circuited by the horrors of what happened to the Jews of Europe. For this is a conversation against time and place, a heroic effort to create and sustain a choir of voices in Yiddish, her beloved and endangered language.” David G. Roskies, author of Against the Apocalypse: Responses to Catastrophe in Modern Jewish Culture, A Bridge of Longing: The Lost Art of Yiddish Storytelling, and Yiddish Lands: a Memoir

"[These] stories give English readers an unprecedented opportunity to delve into a substantial body of prose by Blume Lempel, an important voice in post–World War II Yiddish letters." Jeffrey Shandler, Adventures in Yiddishland: Postvernacular Language and Culture

"This finally makes accessible to a wider audience . . . [Lempel's] stories about the erotic and intellectual life of (mostly) women and men, their psychological and historical motivations, the horror of the Holocaust and the desire to renew life even as one mourns." Anita Norich, Writing in Tongues: Translating Yiddish in the 20th Century

October 2016 | 225 pages

Paper 978-1-942134-21-3 $16.95

Cloth 978-1-942134-25-1 $26.95

E-Book 978-1-942134-22-0 $ 9.99

Kindle $11.49