Shadows of Berlin is, in part, a bleak chronicle of life in Europe growing ever more hostile at the edge of World War II, part mythic parable. Bergelson’s stories—passionate, honest, dark and often hilarious—hint at the possibility of redemption even as they suggest a horror just around the corner.
"David Bergelson’s Berlin stories reveal a moment of incredible possibility in Jewish culture—a time when some of the greatest Yiddish writers of the day saw the German capital as a beacon for progressive, modernist creative artists. In the course of one brief sentence, Bergelson masterfully descends from the teeming Berliner streets into the depths of his characters’ souls. His prose sparkles with stylistic virtuosity, savage humor, and creates a seamless fusion of Western and Eastern European modernisms." – Robert Adler Peckerar, Director of Education, National Yiddish Book Center
"Despair peoples Bergelson's Berlin. His stories describe a metropolis in the aftermath of World War I. These are stories of Jewish refugees lurking in shadows, who seek healing and redemption from the awful massacres of the Jewish communities of the Ukraine. Isolated, alienated, prey to sexual predators, and victimized by scams, these refugees plot revenge against the pogromists with whom they jostle elbows in seedy rooming houses and packed trolleys. Bergelson's characters are figures who have lost their centers, ghosts inhabiting boarding houses, seeking but failing to find meaning in their lives amid petty encounters they imagine as world-shaking events. Against the grey world of his realistic description, the narrators of his stories suggest through their wit other human possibilities closed off to his characters." —Murray Baumgarten, Director of Jewish Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz
"Bergelson's genius has been a well-kept secret for far too long. But now the secret is out. These stories are dazzling and devastating, their power slowly overtaking you as you become aware, in page after page of carefully crafted and shockingly honest prose, of the astounding presence of irrational evil. Expect to be stunned." —Dara Horn, author of In the Image
Dovid Bergelson (1884-1952) is considered to be one of the best Soviet Yiddish writers of the twentieth century. He was executed in 1952 as part of Stalin’s purge of Soviet Yiddish culture.
Joachim Neugroschel is the winner of three PEN Translation Awards and the French-American Translation Prize. His translations include works by Franz Kafka, Marcel Proust and Thomas Mann.
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Dovid Bergelson, one of the most renowned and influential writers of the 1900s, was born in Ocrimovo, Ukraine, in 1884. In 1952, at the age of 68, after four years of prison, he died a victim of Stalin's police. His work as a writer and literary man spans a period of approximately thirty years.From Booklist:
*Starred Review* Neugroschel relates in his informative introduction that Bergelson, a notable Yiddish writer from Ukraine, spent 1922 to 1929 in Berlin, where his prolific output of stories included some set in that city. At that time, Berlin was a place of exile for many Yiddish intellectuals, and living there, Bergelson, whose fiction had previously focused on the bleak and wistful decay of the shtetl and on the frustrations of the Jewish bourgeoisie in the czarist realm, now focused on what Neugroschel describes as "individuals trapped in their own isolation and alienation." There are eight stories in this remarkable collection. One, "For 12,000 Bucks He Fasts Forty Days: Scenes of Berlin," deals with a young man sealed under glass in a restaurant, existing only on seltzer and cigarettes. "Among Refugees" concerns a Jewish terrorist tracking the notorious Ukrainian pogromist. "One Night Less" is the tale of a poet who roams the streets of Berlin at night, observing the lonely eccentrics. "The people in this forceful city do not fall into different types and characters--but the streets do," he observes. Bergelson was killed in 1952 in Stalin's final purge of Soviet Yiddish culture. Despite their bleakness, the stories contain some malicious humor. More importantly, they reveal the indomitable Jewish spirit in the face of past suffering and the tragedy to come. George Cohen
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