Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Everyday Jews

Yehoshue Perle’s Everyday Jews: Scenes from a Vanished Life carries with it the full weight of its subtitle.  Published in 1935, Perle would die in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943.  So it becomes hard to judge this book without that the tight, constricting lens of the Holocaust as its unwritten end point. 

Like so many writers who perished in the Shoah, their work takes on a new glow, because we read each word with the full awareness that the end is near.

Despite this, and despite its depressing passages replete with poverty, ignorance, and struggle, Perle manages to write a novel that is not without humor.  The creeping darkness of the novel's world is lightened by Mendl, the twelve year old protagonist’s observations of life.

So, despite the expert eye of the Mendl, his keen observations of life around him, this novel becomes a bildungsroman, a coming of age novel, and this is fully confirmed by the end. 
No doubt Perle was setting his character up to deal with the competing and harsh demands of the Eastern European world between the wars.  And these demands, no doubt, would have murdered him.

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