Tevye the Dairyman and Motl the Cantor’s Son

Tevye the Dairyman and Motl the Cantor’s Son



374 p.




Tevye the Dairyman and Motl the Cantor’s Son are the most celebrated characters in all of Jewish fiction. Tevye is the lovable, Bible-quoting father of seven daughters, a modern Job whose wisdom, humor, and resilience inspired the lead character in Fiddler on the Roof. And Motl is the spirited and mischievous nine-year-old boy who accompanies his family on a journey from their Russian shtetl to New York, and whose comical, poignant, and clear-eyed observations capture with remarkable insight the struggles and hopes and triumphs of Jewish immigrants to America at the turn of the twentieth century.



Sholem Aleichem is the pen name of Sholem Rabinovitch (1859-1916), the most beloved writer in Yiddish literature. Born in Russia, he fled the pogroms with his family and immigrated to New York in 1905. His funeral procession was witnessed by 100,000 mourners. Click on his name to know more about this great author.



With all the talk today about the survival of Yiddish, there continues to be a big demand for the work of beloved Jewish writer Sholem Aleichem. Fortunately, some of Aleichem’s best work was newly translated last year to celebrate the writer’s one-hundred-fiftieth birthday in February 2009. Tevye, the Dairyman and Motl, the Cantor’s Son brings together not only “Tevye,” the story on which the famous Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof is based, but also two other novels that combine the shtetl story with the immigration drama of leaving home and coming to America. Dan Miron’s brilliant introduction to this book will bring in new readers and also make Fiddler fans revisit the stories they thought they knew. And you have to read them aloud: the torrents of earthy curses (“May you grow like an onion with your head in the ground!”) and the mushy endearments; the kvetching and the grandiose lies; the competition for who is more miserable. Aleichem remains the great humanist, the most popular Yiddish writer ever; he’s often and appropriately called the Jewish Mark Twain. –Hazel Rochman



I was fortunate enough to run into into this book thanks to another book blogger. This is delightful, well written, funny, and witty.
The first story will be very familiar to you if you have watched Fiddler on the Roof, though you will never find in the whole story the word TRADITION!! LOL!
The second story is told from the mouth of a kid, who has great eyes, and comments on everything and everyone. It is every interesting to see how the author manages to mix the tragic and the humorous, while recounting the exodus from Russia to an American ghetto, never without respect, never mocking. When humor never becomes irony, I say: great job! I was only disappointed to get to the end without end: the author died at the beginning of a new section, without having time to finish his book.


And now I am reading:

-The Lost City of Z, by David Grann. An incredible true story. Here is what amazon says:

In April of 1925, a legendary British explorer named Percy Fawcett launched his final expedition into the depths of the Amazon in Brazil. His destination was the lost city of El Dorado, the “City of Gold,” an ancient kingdom of great sophistication, architecture, and culture that, for some reason, had vanished. The idea of El Dorado had captivated anthropologists, adventurers, and scientists for 400 years, though there was no evidence it ever existed. Hundreds of expeditions had gone looking for it. Thousands of men had perished in the jungles searching for it. Fawcett himself had barely survived several previous expeditions and was more determined than ever to find the lost city with its streets and temples of gold.

The world was watching. Fawcett, the last of the great Victorian adventurers, was financed by the Royal Geographical Society in London, the world’s foremost repository of research gathered by explorers. Fawcett, then age 57, had proclaimed for decades his belief in the City of Z, as he had nicknamed it. His writings, speeches, and exploits had captured the imagination of millions, and reports of his last expedition were front page news.

His expeditionary force consisted of three men–himself, his 21-year-old son Jack, and one of Jack’s friends. Fawcett believed that only a small group had any chance of surviving the horrors of the Amazon. He had seen large forces decimated by malaria, insects, snakes, poison darts, starvation, and insanity. He knew better. He and his two companions would travel light, carry their own supplies, eat off the land, pose no threat to the natives, and endure months of hardship in their search for the Lost City of Z.

They were never seen again. Fawcett’s daily dispatches trickled to a stop. Months passed with no word. Because he had survived several similar forays into the Amazon, his family and friends considered him to be near super-human. As before, they expected Fawcett to stumble out of the jungle, bearded and emaciated and announcing some fantastic discovery. It did not happen.

Over the years, the search for Fawcett became more alluring than the search for El Dorado itself. Rescue efforts, from the serious to the farcical, materialized in the years that followed, and hundreds of others lost their lives in the search. Rewards were posted. Psychics were brought in by the family. Articles and books were written. For decades the legend of Percy Fawcett refused to die.

The great mystery of what happened to Fawcett has never been solved, perhaps until now. In 2004, author David Grann discovered the story while researching another one. Soon, like hundreds before him, he became obsessed with the legend of the colorful adventurer and his baffling disappearance. Grann, a lifelong New Yorker with an admitted aversion to camping and mountain climbing, a lousy sense of direction, and an affinity for take-out food and air conditioning, soon found himself in the jungles of the Amazon. What he found there, some 80 years after Fawcett’s disappearance, is a startling conclusion to this absorbing narrative.

The Lost City of Z is a riveting, exciting and thoroughly compelling tale of adventure.

The Canterbury Tales, by Chaucer (Audiobook)
Light from the Christian East, by James R. Payton
A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century, by Barbara Tuchman



7 thoughts on “Tevye the Dairyman and Motl the Cantor’s Son

  1. Tévyé le laitier ! ah si je l’ai lu, et relu ce diamant du Yiddishland !! Isaac aussi l’a beaucoup aimé. Tu l’as donc lu en anglais, waoo, respect parce que l’écriture est aussi ébouriffée et foutraque que Tévyé lui-même.
    Je rêve de le lire un jour en v.o mais ça ne sera pas avant quelques décennies.

    A propos : “La flamme du Shabbat” est un autre diamant: une monographie d’un sthtetl écrite avec autant de ferveur que de précision. C’est dans la collection Terre Humaine, il existe peut-être une traduction anglaise.


  2. J’avais d’abord vu, il y a longtemps, le film : Fiddler on the roof” qui m’avait plu mais sans enthousiasme; ensuite j’ai acheté le livre et là; merveille !
    Dommage qu’un film n’ait pas été tourné à partir de la Flamme du Shabbat, ça aurait pu être magnifique.


  3. Pingback: Read in January 2011 « Words And Peace

    • You are right, so few people know about this book, and I can’t remember which blogger mentioned it and gave me the idea to read it. Too bad I didn’t specify who it was in my post. Let me know of other books you will read and like by this author


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