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A Multilingual Journey Through Jewish Culture: Review of Nora Gold’s 18: Jewish Stories Translated from 18 Languages
Norm Goldman --  BookPleasures.com Norm Goldman -- BookPleasures.com
Montreal, QC
Monday, December 4, 2023

A Multilingual Journey Through Jewish Culture: Review of Nora Gold’s 18: Jewish Stories Translated from 18 Languages

Nora Gold's 18: Jewish Stories Translated from 18 Languages is a multilingual journey through Jewish culture. The anthology is a remarkable and groundbreaking anthology that adds a vibrant and essential dimension to Jewish literature.

Gold's curation allows readers to explore the vastness of Jewish culture through the eyes of renowned authors, offering a collection that is not only culturally enriching but also universally resonant.

And it is not just for Jewish readers; it is a must-read for all lovers of stories illuminating the human experience in all its complexity.

Embark on a literary journey that spans the globe as you delve into a collection of writings penned by various authors. Hailing from nations such as France, Israel, Hungary, Croatia, Poland, Albania, Italy, Germany, Romania, Portugal, Spain, Denmark, Czechoslovakia, Greece, and Turkey, these writers share their perspectives in languages beyond English. The anthology comprises a rich tapestry of cultural voices, offering readers a captivating exploration of global narratives.

Before delving into the enchanting pages of this literary masterpiece, I was unaware of the expansive realm of Jewish fiction that stretches across the globe. Frequently, our perception of "Jewish Fiction" tends to be narrowly focused on American Jewish literature. Yet, when one acknowledges the two-millennium-long existence of Jewish communities in diverse nations, it becomes evident that Jewish literary works have been written in the languages where Jews have lived.

We must realize the rich tapestry of narratives written in languages besides English.

Gold's eye-opening exploration challenges our preconceived notions, revealing a vast and diverse landscape of Jewish storytelling waiting to be discovered.

One example is the Ladino author Elia Rafael Karmona, whose novel The Washerwoman's Daughter is introduced through an excerpt translated by Michael Alpert. Often likened to the Sholem Aleichem of Ladino, Karmona, born in Istanbul in 1869, led a fascinating life, initially as a tutor for the Grand Vizir's sons and later as a typesetting apprentice at the newspaper El Tyempo.

Despite his adventurous youth in Salonika, Izmir, and Cairo, Karmona's literary contributions remain relatively obscure today despite having written fifty novels. The anthology sheds light on his satirical writing style, offering readers a glimpse into his discerning eye as a satirist.

Another notable inclusion is Norman Manea, featured with an excerpt from his novel Place of Birth: Report on the Station of Union, translated by Jean Harris. Manea's life story, surviving deportation to a concentration camp in Transnistria during WWII in Romania, is as compelling as his literature. Confronting anti-Semitism, he openly criticized the communist regime in the 1960s, facing persecution. In 1986, Manea emigrated from Romania to the U.S. with a German grant and a Fulbright Scholarship.

Now a professor at Bard College, Manea's works, influenced by his tumultuous experiences, have gained international recognition. A contender for the Nobel Prize, his memoir The Hooligan's Return and novel The Lair have been recently reissued by Yale University Press. Additionally, Manea's first Romanian novel, The Captives, has recently been published by New Directions, further solidifying his impact on the literary landscape.

These are just two authors showcased in the anthology, marking the first publication of its kind in twenty-five years. According to Gold, two multilingual Jewish fiction anthologies were released in 1998, with none following since then. This book, designed to address this gap, stands out in three key aspects: it encompasses a significantly broader array of languages, exclusively includes translations (omitting works initially written in English), and is the first to be organized and structured based on language.

18: Jewish Stories Translated from 18 Languages is a literary triumph that transcends cultural boundaries and offers readers a global perspective on Jewish storytelling. This groundbreaking anthology enriches our understanding of Jewish culture and provides a universal exploration of the human experience. The curated selection of authors from diverse nations creates a rich tapestry of narratives, challenging our preconceptions and revealing Jewish fiction's vast and diverse landscape. This is a must-read for anyone who appreciates stories illuminating the complexities of the human condition, extending its appeal beyond Jewish readership to all literature lovers. 

Nora Gold's meticulous curation and the anthology's unique features make it a standout contribution to the world of literary collections, leaving an indelible mark on the landscape of Jewish literature.










 Norm Goldman of Bookpleasures.com

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