Saturday, February 24, 2024

Gila Green reviews “18 Jewish stories translated from 18 Languages”

18 Jewish stories translated from 18 Languages, edited by Nora Gold, 188 pages published Oct 17, 2024 by Academic Studies Press. Available here.

In a conversation with Nora Gold, I found online, she points out that due to the dispersion of Jews among other nations over two thousand years, Jewish fiction has found expression in the languages of virtually every country. In her new anthology, kudos to Gold for extending beyond the anticipated languages like Yiddish and Hebrew. Instead, she spotlights stories originally published in Croatian, Hungarian, Italian, Turkish, and more.

These 18 stories (some of which are novel excerpts) feature well-known Jewish writers such as Eli Wiesel and Isaac Babel while also introducing readers to lesser-known authors like Gabor T Szanto and Maciej Plaza.

Full disclosure: I received this book a couple of months ago after agreeing to receive a complimentary copy in the mail here in Israel. Given my Yemenite background, I felt a profound responsibility to this anthology, aligning with my belief in elevating lesser-known Jewish voices into the literary discussion. However, by the time I received the book, October 7 had become so deeply embedded in my mind that I could only read the stories through the lens of that barbaric attack.

These three quotations struck me and compelled me to pause and reflect:

What mask shall I put on this year? What will I find when I turn the world upside down, what will I find at the bottom of myself after the second or third glass of liqueur? And can this world be any more weird and crazy than it already is?

– From "Purimspiel" by Jasminka Domas, translated from Croatian by Iskra Pavlovic

Nora Gold, editor of 18

This could have been written for the Purim we have not had yet, the first Purim after October 7.

And then these two quotes:

Uncertainty could prick like a cactus on my windowsill. I had always carried this uncertainty in my body. A word here. A word there. Words that didn't make sense. Words that didn't have anything to do with me. Words that had everything to do with me? Uncertainty became certainty. Nightmare became reality. That had to be why it practically put my mind at ease to learn that Jews across the globe for two thousand years had been blamed for all the evilness that happened in the world.

–From Birte Kont "A Place Nowhere," novel excerpt translated from the Danish by Nina Sokol

You're praying? Your children are dead and you're still praying?" There was not anger there, merely vast astonishment. Abram did not answer. He raised his arms helplessly. What shall I do? (He asked his arms), tell me what should I do.

–From "Luck" by Irena Douskova, translated from Czech by David Livingstone

These three quotes – and many others – made me feel as though Jews are reliving our past lives, as though all the Jews who have ever lived in every place are with us in our grief after October 7.

Gold has given us a profound type of inter-generational, transnational hand-holding. Reading through this historical lens, I was infused with the certain knowledge that we will express our grief, write about it, process it, mourn, and continue. There will be more creativity, more literature, and more anthologies.

If you're looking to read for escape from the events of the day, then this is not the choice for you. But if you wish to have a historical perspective on events or some food for thought about what is happening around us at this very moment, this anthology should be at the top of your list.

18 Jewish stories translated from 18 languages is available from Chapters/Indigo here.

Gila Green grew up in Ottawa then moved to Johannesburg before settling outside of Tel Aviv. She is the author of dozens of short stories, and three novels and one novel-in-stories: White Zion (Cervena Barva Press), King of the Class (NON Publishing, Vancouver), Passport Control (S&H Publishing) and No Entry (Stormbird Press, Australia).

Plus, Gila has two more novels coming: With a Good Eye to be released August 2024 available for pre-order here, and The Inheritance to be released in 2025 (both from Ace of Swords Publishing Montreal).

When she is not writing or mothering her five children, her daughter-in-law or two sons-in-law, Gila teaches EFL and edits manuscripts.

This review was originally published on Gila’s blog here.

Note: Quick Brown Fox welcomes your reviews and your pieces about reading, writing the writing life, and other literary themed pieces. See other book reviews here (and scroll down) and pieces about writing here (and scroll down).

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