With ethnic literature I often sense that I am missing so much compared to a reader from within that particular tradition. That may be the case with Stempenyu: A Jewish Romance, but as a moral fable, the story is above ethnicity. A mystical musician bewitches a married woman, the ghost of a childhood friend appears at a critical moment, she opts for marital fidelity and renews her love for her husband.
Ghosts, moral tales and mystical fiddlers: there is undoubtedly a market for charming fables, but I am not part of it. The most enjoyment I got from the tale was Stempenyu’s wife Freidel: a memorable and vivid character.
[Read as part of Frances’s and Melville House’s The Art of the Novella Reading Challenge.]
Haha, I sort of love that you liked Freidel. I wasn’t what I’d call a fan, but I do think she was among the more genuinely interesting characters.
Sholem Aleichem creates genuinely vivid characters, even some of the second-line characters, i.e. Moyshe-Mendl are beautifully created. Freidel is a perfect villain and such a strong contrast for Rachel.
Wondering how others have reacted to this one. And wondering how polite you are being about your reaction to it. 🙂
I am more than willing to accept that I lack sufficient literary refinement to appreciate this type of story. It contains much that simply turns me off in my choice of reading material: I read a lot of Grimm and Aesop to my daughter when she was young, but I dislike moral fables; I have an aversion to ghosts and dreams being used in literature: with exceptions I think they are a cop-out and an excuse for weak plot lines.