Dvora Baron (1887-1956), the first modern Hebrew woman writer, was born in a small Lithuanian town in 1887. Her father, a rabbi, gave his daughter a thorough education, an extraordinary act at the time. Baron immigrated to Palestine in 1910, married a prominent Zionist activist, but defied the implicit ideological demands of the Zionist literary scene by continuing to write of the shtetl life she had left behind.
The eighteen stories in this superb collection offer an intimate re-creation of Jewish Eastern Europe from a perspective seldom represented in Hebrew and Yiddish literature of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Baron brings vividly to life the shtetl experiences of women and other disenfranchised members of the Jewish community. Her stories relate the feelings of a newborn girl, a "Jewish" dog, an impoverished bookkeeper, a young widow who must hire herself out as a wet-nurse, and others who face emotional and physical hardships.
Baron's fluid writing style pushes the flexibility of Hebrew and Yiddish syntax to its limits, while her profound knowledge of both biblical and rabbinical literature lends rich subtleties to her stories. A companion to Conversations with Dvora: An Experimental Biography of the First Modern Hebrew Woman Writer, by Amia Lieblich (California, 1997), this collection is drawn from Baron's earlier as well as later works.
Naomi Seidman is Associate Professor of Jewish Culture and Director of the Richard S. Dinner Center for Jewish Studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. She is the author of A Marriage Made in Heaven: The Sexual Politics of Hebrew and Yiddish (California, 1997). Chana Kronfeld is Associate Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. Her book On the Margins of Modernism: Decentering Literary Dynamics (California, 1995) received the Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize of the Modern Language Association.
"Who knew? That a Jewish village in Eastern Europe was observed by a skeptical, feminist eye, transformed into agile, delicate, earthy stories, written in Hebrew, a language never learned by most women? That a world of men and of women, deserted, divorced, unloved--later decimated by the Nazis--could spring to life again, in stunning translations that expose the stories' biblical moves and modernist countermoves? Now we know: Hebrew fiction and English fiction just gained an astonishing foremother. Sit, take a bite, read."—Mary Felstiner, Professor of History at San Francisco State University, author of To Paint Her Life: Charlotte Salomon in the Nazi Era
"We know the voice of the shtetl through Shomlom Aleichem, I. B. Singer, and others; now we have a woman's perspective in the work of Dvora Baron. This mysterious, eccentric author is wonderfully translated for the first time in English, just as Israelis are beginning to treasure her. It is a triumph for literature, for women, and for readers that she is now available to us."—E. M. Broner, author of A Weave of Women, The Telling, and Bringing Home the Light