Author(s): Jeremy Dauber
The first comprehensive biography of one of the most beloved authors of all time: the creator of "Tevye the Dairyman," the stories that inspired "Fiddler on the Roof."
Novelist, playwright, journalist, essayist, and editor, Sholem Aleichem was one of the founding giants of modern Yiddish literature and a folk hero in his own right. The creator of a pantheon of memorable characters who have been immortalized in books and plays, he provided readers with a fascinating window onto the world of Eastern European Jews as they began to confront the forces of cultural, political, and religious modernity that tore through the Russian empire in the final decades of the nineteenth century. But just as compelling as the fictional lives of his characters was Sholem Aleichem's own life story. Born Sholem Rabinovitch in Ukraine in 1859, he endured an impoverished childhood, married into fabulous wealth, and then lost it all through bad luck and worse business sense. Turning to his pen to support himself, he switched from writing in Russian and Hebrew to Yiddish in order to create a living body of literature for the Jewish masses. He enjoyed spectacular success as both a writer and a performer of his work in Jewish communities throughout Europe and the United States, and his death from chronic tuberculosis in New York in 1916 was front-page news around the world. His funeral was attended by more than 150,000 people, and a" New York Times" editorial mourned the loss of "the Jewish Mark Twain." But his greatest fame lay ahead of him, as the English-speaking world began to discover his work in translation and his beloved characters were introduced to an audience that would extend beyond his wildest dreams. In this magnificent biography, we encounter a Sholem Aleichem for the ages.
This biography is part of the critically-acclaimed JEWISH ENCOUNTERS series, a collaboration between Schocken Books and Nextbook Press.
(With black-and-white illustrations throughout.)
Jeremy Dauber is a professor of Yiddish literature at Columbia University, where he also serves as director of its Institute for Israel and Jewish Studies and teaches in the American Studies program. He received his undergraduate degree from Harvard and his doctorate from the University of Oxford, which he attended as a Rhodes Scholar. His previous books include "In the Demon's Bedroom: Yiddish Literature and the Early Modern" and "Antonio's Devils: Writers of the Jewish Enlightenment and the Birth of Modern Hebrew and Yiddish Literature." He frequently lectures on topics related to Jewish literature, history, humor, and popular culture at the 92nd Street Y and other venues throughout the United States.