MARIENBAD by Sholom Aleichem


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Sholom Aleichem warned the readers of this 1911 Yiddish book to think of it less as a novel than as a ferpluntenish--an ""entanglement""--of letters. And, indeed, that's all you'll find here: the correspondence between the stay-at-home wives and husbands of the tony Nalevkis section in Jewish Warsaw, and their respective spouses who've gone to take the cure at the spa in Marienbad. Gamely translated by Aliza Shevrin, the letters--full of suspicion, protests of innocence, double-dealing, malicious gossip--are a late exercise by Aleichem in the tetchy/pretentious varieties of petitbourgeois written language. A Madame Yamayiker, for instance (who's at the spa to try to snare husbands for her three grown, unmarried daughters), writes to husband Velvel back on the Nalevkis: ""You wrote that you want me to write you the news, so I'm writing to tell you that so far there's nothing to write about. Nothing, but nothing, has happened."" There's delightfully rising sarcasm, too, when Shlomo Kurlander writes to his much younger and flighty wife Beltzi or when Chan'tzi Marionchik writes to her womanizing husband Mere'l (who calls himself Mark). And when each character sends every other one each other's letters, the soup does begin to bubble thickly. Yet a ferpluntenish first and last it remains, nothing deeper: the knots are broadly tied, the jokes aren't all that funny--and, despite Shevrin's valiant attempt, only the silly surface of Aleichem's Yiddish mocking comes across in this minor entertainment.

Pub Date: Sept. 7th, 1982
Publisher: Putnam