The Worlds of Sholem Aleichem: The Remarkable Life and Afterlife of the Man Who Created Tevye

Schocken. (Jewish Encounters, Bk. 23). 2013. 480p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9780805242782. $28.95; ebk. ISBN 9780805243161. LIT
Sholem Aleichem (1859–1916), creator of the exuberant optimist Tevye the Dairyman of stories that inspired the 1964 musical Fiddler on the Roof was one of the major practitioners and proponents of the Yiddish language and its literature. His prolific writing career began in his teens when he compiled a lexicon of his stepmother's curses. Dauber (Yiddish literature, Columbia Univ.; In the Devil's Bedroom: Yiddish Literature and the Early Modern) concentrates his biography on the veritable writing machine that was Aleichem, presenting a thorough accounting and explication of his journalism, stories, plays, and books, with commentary on their relevance to contemporary Russian literature and east European shtetl or "town" culture. While Dauber's prodigious research informs Aleichem's literary life, the book is slight on information about his family life. He was one of eight children, but the facts are scant on his siblings; he enjoyed a long marriage to Olga Loyeff, who bore him four daughters and two sons, yet there is little here on his relationship to his wife or children. A daughter, Maroussie, is mentioned only when she marries, and we learn of a son, Misha, much later in the book, who dies of tuberculosis.
VERDICT Essential for understanding Aleichem's literary history and development.
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