When Shlemiel Went to Warsaw and Other Stories by Isaac Bashevis SingerIn our time, when literature is losing its address and the telling of stories is becoming a forgotten art, children are the best readers.
—When Shlemiel Went to Warsaw & Other Stories, from the Foreward
I have to admit, Isaac Bashevis Singer really has a way with folk tale humor. His shlemiels do such comically absurd things that it will make anyone laugh, and in doing so the author has achieved the rarity of a book with comedic appeal to readers of any age or background. Most of the vignettes included in When Shlemiel Went to Warsaw and Other Stories have their roots in Isaac Bashevis Singers Yiddish culture, and seem nearly unique in the way that they portray most of the main characters as unbelievable fools, yet still deliver a relevant message about human nature and life as we know it.
Shrewd Todie & Lyzer the Miser, the first story in this collection, is one of those just desserts tales of retribution about the poor but crafty man getting one over on the wealthy but penurious neighbor whom everyone has been waiting for years to see get knocked down a peg. Todie isnt your typical hero, being incurably lazy himself, but he gets the job done. Tsirtsur & Peziza is a short but effective fable about an imp and a cricket who live in what is essentially a hole in the wall, and what happens when their world is turned upside down one day as they are forced to evacuate the home theyve always known. The story allegorically demonstrates that perceived safety can actually be a negative thing when it inhibits healthy risk taking and personal growth, and Tsirtsur and Peziza are the living objects for this lesson. All told, I would argue that this is probably the second-best story in the book.
Rabbi Leib & the Witch Cunegunde is another tale with a definite moral. This one concerns the triumph of good over evil when a person on the side of good is willing to use smart trickery to achieve victory. The Elders of Chelm & Gendels Key returns us to a world of pure but entertaining nonsense, as the town elders of Chelm prove time and again that their buffoonery is the stuff of legend. Picking up where that one left off is Shlemiel, the Businessman, which relates the story of the ways that simpleminded Shlemiel gets tricked out of his money again and again, and how no one in his village can figure out whats actually happening (remember, this is still Chelm were talking about, so its not a town populated by geniuses).
Switching back to a moral fable, Utzel & His Daughter Poverty tells the tale of a lazy man and his daughter as they come to learn something about the connection between hard work and personal success. This is probably the story that has the most obvious fantasy elements to it, but the lesson to be learned is very real and grounded firmly in common sense. Id have to say that Menasehs Dream, which comes up next, has to be the finest story of the entire lot. Twelve-year-old Menaseh, who has lost his parents and grandfather to death at a young age, is visited by a dream that gives him a glimpse of his future. Hes even able to see his parents and grandfather for a few moments during the dream, and they assure him that he will join them one day, but that he must complete a long and difficult journey first. Menaseh awakens from his vision and is met by an unmistakable sign that what he experienced was more than just a dream, and its enough to give him hope for his future. The storys emotion is played lightly, but the depth of its meaning still outshines that of the other tales, in my opinion.
For the finale, we have the one we all were waiting to read, When Shlemiel Went to Warsaw. Back we go to Chelm, where Shlemiel has now decided that he needs to get out and see the world on his own, without his wife and kids. On his way to Warsaw, a prankster turns Shlemiels shoes around at night so that when he puts them on in the morning he unwittingly (which seems to happen a lot) travels back to Chelm. Shlemiel is dumbfounded (again, a common occurrence) to have somehow ended up back in Chelm, and draws the conclusion that there must be a second village called Chelm exactly like his own, populated with people who look and act exactly like the neighbors hes always known. So what is he to do when his family approaches him in this alternate Chelm, and expects him to be their husband and father?
Whether funny or thoughtful, each of the short stories told by Isaac Bashevis Singer in this book has its own distinct merit, and are well worth reading for anyone interested in stories that offer a sense of culture, a lot of quirky humor and a vivid object lesson or two. When Shlemiel Went to Warsaw & Other Stories is a book both entertaining and enlightening, and I definitely had fun with it. I hope that other readers do, too. I would rate it at two and a half stars.
Isaac Bashevis Singer
He was one of the leading figures in the Yiddish literary movement, and received the Nobel Prize in Literature in A few years later, the family moved to a nearby Polish town of Radzymin, which is often and erroneously given as his birthplace. The exact date of his birth is uncertain, but most probably it was November 21, , a date that Singer gave both to his official biographer Paul Kresh, and his secretary Dvorah Telushkin. It is also consistent with the historical events he and his brother refer to in their childhood memoirs. The often quoted birth date, July 14, was made up by the author in his youth, most probably to make himself younger to avoid the draft. Singer later used her name in his pen name "Bashevis" Bathsheba's.
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“Utzel and His Daughter, Poverty”. Theme and POV Worksheet. Find the place in the story where the character, Sandler, states the theme. Find the place where.
how do you say beloved
Isaac Bashevis Singer
Fill out the author. Students may say that honey, spiders spin webs, birds build nests, moles dig holes in the earth, squirrels store food for the winter. Before long Utzel got a better job. He rebuilt his house and bought some furniture. Poverty lost more weight. She had new clothes made and dressed prettily like the other girls of the village.