Author Rónán Hession gives the latest colleciton his stamp of appoval
As a young man, Ludovic Bruckstein was deported to Auschwitz and other labour camps, where most of his family perished. After the war, his plan to flee Romania with his young wife was cut short by the Iron Curtain. He eventually settled in Tel Aviv and wrote prize-winning plays, novels and short stories until his death in 1988.
The stories that make up The Fate of Yaakov Maggid (Istros Books, £12.99) draw heavily on Bruckstein’s distinguished family lineage of Hassidic rabbis and writers. Mainly set in the nineteenth century among the tiny villages of the Carpathian Mountains, these perfectly constructed rabbinical parables are rich with moral instruction. The wealthy are subjected to virtue tests in humility and generosity. Whereas contemporary short stories often rely on ephemeral insight, the lessons here feel solid, timeworn and tested. The later stories lean more towards the tragic, chronicling the long history of Jewish persecution across Europe over the centuries.
The translation from Romanian by Alistair Ian Blyth captures brilliantly the sage wisdom of the rabbis with all their humour and mischief, while preserving the author’s rich lexicon of Hebrew and Yiddish terms. Recommended with enthusiasm, this is a collection I plan to return to often.
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