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Published – Prof Allison Schachter’s Translations of Fradl Shtok’s Short Stories

Posted by on Thursday, November 11, 2021 in featured, Research.

From the Jewish Provinces: Selected Stories by Fradl Shtok, translated by Jewish Studies Professor Allison Schachter and rare book librarian at Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati Jordan Finkin, has been published by Northwestern University Press.

Congratulations, Allison!

From the publishers:

From the Jewish Provinces showcases a brilliant and nearly forgotten voice in Yiddish letters. An insistently original writer whose abrupt departure from the literary scene is the stuff of legend, Fradl Shtok composed stories that describe the travails of young women looking for love and desire in a world that spurns them. These women struggle with disability, sexual violence, and unwanted marriage, striving to imagine themselves as artists or losing themselves in fantasy worlds. The men around them grapple with their own frustrations and failures to live up to stifling social expectations. Through deft portraits of her characters’ inner worlds Shtok grants us access to unnoticed corners of the Jewish imagination.
Set alternately in the Austro‑Hungarian borderlands and in New York City, Shtok’s stories interpret the provincial worlds of the Galician shtetl and the Lower East Side with literary sophistication, experimenting with narrative techniques that make her stories expertly alive to women’s aesthetic experiences.

About the Author:

Fradl Shtok (1890–1990?) was born in Galicia, near the border between the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Russia. She emigrated to New York at around the age of seventeen, quickly making a name for herself as an up-and-coming poet, highly regarded and widely anthologized. She published a collection of short stories, written in Yiddish, in 1919, and a novel, written in English, in 1927. By the 1930s Shtok had dropped out of the literary scene, and little is known about her later life.

Praise:

  • “Finkin and Schachter offer a long-overdue reevaluation of Shtok’s prose writing, analyzing the stories clearly while leaving much for readers to discern for themselves . . . a welcome addition to the (slowly) growing corpus of Yiddish women’s prose in English translation.” —Anita Norich, author of Writing in Tongues: Translating Yiddish in the Twentieth Century
  • “To paraphrase a line from Fradl Shtok’s story ‘In the Village,’ a ‘joyous restlessness runs riot’ through these pages. Shtok’s stories are charged with longing; this longing is regularly cut with a playful wryness; this wryness, in turn, is interspersed with flickering instances of raw beauty and raw pain. Jordan D. Finkin and Allison Schachter’s translation is fluid and elegant, at times leaning into a colloquial relaxedness—‘That Persian-lamb cap sure made her bangs pop’—and at other junctures pulling toward the lyrical, as when one character’s semi-illicit consumption of a single viburnum berry (described brilliantly as ‘both good and not good’) is likened to ‘swallowing the clear frost, the cold sun on the snow.’ From the heart-stopping music of a flute played by a handsome stranger balanced on a tightrope, to the scene of village women eating fresh bread after swimming, smelling of water, talking, and feeling ‘bighearted toward the whole world,’ this collection is overflowing with moments, images, and lines that I will not soon forget. I loved reading it.” —Moriel Rothman-Zecher, author of Sadness Is a White Bird: A Novel
  • “In this important collection of the short fiction of Fradl Shtok, the English reader gains access for the first time to the hauntingly mundane modernist stories of a marginalized yet innovative Yiddish verbal artist. Jordan D. Finkin and Allison Schachter’s brilliant collaborative translation preserves the ironic cadences of the Yiddish that diffuse the pathos and endow these unresolved brief narratives with a rare vitality. Shtok’s supple and terse prose, beautifully rendered here by Finkin and Schachter, leads us into a kaleidoscope of points of view, from the collective stream of consciousness of the shtetl community, to the secret inner lives of Jewish characters in Eastern Europe and New York, mostly young women, whose unfulfilled erotic desires and cultural aspirations turn words into sites of longing.” —Chana Kronfeld, author of The Full Severity of Compassion: The Poetry of Yehuda Amichai