Selected Bibliography

Secondary works to read for further exploration of Sholem Aleichem

The Worlds of Sholem Aleichem: The Remarkable Life and Afterlife of the Man Who Created Tevye
Dauber, Jeremy Asher

NEW YORK: SCHOCKEN BOOKS, 2013

A comprehensive biography that “brings the ‘Jewish Mark Twain’ to life” according to The New Yorker, Dauber’s book relates Sholem Aleichem’s life from his impoverished childhood in Ukraine to his transcontinental success to his death in 1916 at the age of 57. It includes 16 pages of black-and-white illustrations.

Translating Sholem Aleichem History, Politics and Art
Estraikh, Finkin, Hoge and Krutikov, ed.

OXFORD: LEGENDA, 2012.

An assortment of scholars of Sholem Aleichem and Yiddish Literature analyze how cultural contexts in Europe influenced the ways in which Sholem Aleichem’s works were translated from Yiddish to various different languages over time for literature, theatre and film.

The Modern Jewish Canon: A Journey Through Language and Culture
Wisse, Ruth R.

CHICAGO: UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS, 2003

Wisse provides a foundational study of twentieth-century Jewish literature, seeking to fashion common criteria – in a uniquely multilingual and transnational canon – for what makes a work of literature “Jewish.” Her chapter on Sholem Aleichem, entitled “The Comedy of Endurance,” positions Sholem’s writing as “the anchoring work of the modern Jewish canon.”

A Bridge of Longing: The Lost Art of Yiddish Storytelling
Roskies, David G.

CAMBRIDGE, MA: HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS, 1996.

Roskies traces the social and political forces that shaped the cultural tradition of Yiddish storytelling. He looks at modern writers who reclaimed the art of storytelling and complex moral issues behind the veneer of seemingly simplistic folklore. Sholem Aleichem is here described as a “Mythologist of the Mundane,” who began a Yiddish cultural revolution by “recenter[ing] Jewish culture on the marvels of everyday life” (pp. 13).

Classic Yiddish Fiction: Abramovitsh, Sholem Aleichem, & Peretz
Frieden, Ken

ALBANY, NY: STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK PRESS, 1995

Frieden provides a vivid study of three Yiddish authors, including Sholem Aleichem. He analyzes Yiddish literature from the 1860s to the 1910s, drawing on history and literary criticism to situate Sholem Aleichem as the literary “grandson” of Abramovitsh and, in doing so, connects the past with the present-day effort to preserve Yiddish culture.

Disenchanted Tailor in ‘Illusion’: Sholem Aleichem behind the Scenes of Early Jewish Cinema, 1913-16
Kotlerman, Ber

BLOOMINGTON, IN: SLAVICA PUBLISHERS, 2014

Kotlerman goes into great depth in analyzing Sholem Aleichem’s little-known relationship with early Jewish Cinema, as reflected in Sholem Aleichem’s final theatrical drama about a tailor and a cinema deal. The book looks at his relationship with the film industry in the U.S., Russia and Western Europe.

My Father, Sholom Aleichem
Waife-Goldberg, Marie

NEW YORK: SIMON & SCHUSTER, 1968

A memoir by his youngest daughter, the book relates both Sholem Aleichem’s life and the broader world of Russia before the Revolution. She discusses how despite the simple country life he evokes in his stories, he in fact was a Kiev stockbroker involved in intellectual circles.

The Image of the Shtetl and Other Studies of Modern Jewish Literary Imagination
Miron, Dan

SYRACUSE, NY: SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2000

Miron analyzes the distinct nature of modern Yiddish literature, a theme he has developed in his previous works and research. Chapters 4-7 focus solely on Sholem Aleichem, dwelling on the fictional modalities displayed both in his major works and in his life, as the author’s pseudonym took on a fictitious persona of its own.

The World of Sholom Aleichem
Samuel, Maurice

NEW YORK: SIMON & SCHUSTER, 1986

Awarded the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, Samuel’s book analyzes the historical relationship between Russian Jewry and Sholom Aleichem’s works. “Not so much an essay in literary criticism, an analysis of text or a tracing of influences, as a fine and fascinating novel peopled with characters out of Sholem Aleichem’s works and having as its environment Sholem Aleichem’s world.” (Review by Israel Knox, Jewish Social Studies Vol. 7, No. 1, pp. 74)

Journeys beyond the Pale: Yiddish Travel Writing in the Modern World

Garrett, Leah

MADISON: UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN PRESS: 2003

Examines how Yiddish writers such as Mendele Moykher Sforim, Sholem Aleichem, and Der Nister used motifs of travel to express their complex attitudes toward modernity.

In Chapter 3, The Train Garrett pays close attention to Sholem Aleichem’s ‘Railroad Stories’ , a collection of tales by a self-described traveling salesman who tells of his encounters with the other passengers in a third-class train car. Garrett argues that the stories are important to the development of Yiddish literature for the groundbreaking way they critique Jewish communal life at the turn of the 20th century.

Against the Apocalypse: Responses to Catastrophe in Modern Jewish Culture

Roskies, David

SYRACUSE, NY: SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY PRESS: 1999A [1984]

In this seminal work, Roskies places the Holocaust and the literary responses to it by victims and survivors in the context of generations of Jewish response to catastrophe. The book provides an excellent foundation for the study of Jewish literature and for an appreciation of the Jewish textual and literary imagination from ancient to modern times.

In Chapter 7, Laughing off the Trauma of History Roskies explores how Sholem Aleichem’s characters, at a time of growing dangers to the Jews of Eastern Europe, used particular forms of language to mediate the tremors of history.

Yiddish Fiction and the Crisis of Modernity, 1905 1914

Krutikov, Mikhail

STANFORD, CA: STANFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS: 2002

Focuses on the effect of economic change, revolutionary politics, emigration, and the emancipation of women on Yiddish literature between the Russian Revolution of 1905 and the beginning of World War I.

In Chapter 2, The Crisis of Revolution, Krutikov pays attention to Sholem Aleichem’s novel ‘The Flood’, which describes Jewish characters who are caught up in the revolutionary events of 1905.

Booking Passage: Exile and Homecoming in the Modern Jewish Imagination

Ezrahi, Sidra DeKoven

BERKELEY: UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS: 2000

A study of the thematics of geography and the place of Zion in modern Jewish literature, with chapters on S. Y. Abramovitsh, Sholem Aleichem, and Isaac Bashevis Singer.

In Chapter 4, By Train, by Ship, by Subway: Sholem Aleichem and the American Voyage of Self-Invention Ezrahi examines how the journey to America figures in the imagination of Sholem Aleichem.

A Traveler Disguised: The Rise of Modern Yiddish Fiction in the Nineteenth Century

Miron, Dan

NEW YORK: SIMON & SCHUSTER, 1986

A landmark study that examines the emergence of modern Yiddish literature in the nineteenth century, it argues that in a multilingual context, the language writers chose was never naturalbut always reflected historical, social, and political tensions. The emphasis is on Sh. Y. Abramovitsh, the father of modern Yiddish literature, and on his storyteller persona Mendele. Miron argues that Sholem Aleichem used Mendele as a key part of his efforts to create a tradition of Yiddish literature.