About a thousand years ago, European Jews began speaking a language that was quite different from the various tongues and dialects that swirled around them. It included Hebrew, a touch of the Romance and Slavic languages, and a large helping of German. In a world of earthly wandering, this pungent, witty, and infinitely nuanced speech, full of jokes, puns, and ironies, became the linguistic home of the Jews, the bond that held a people together.
Here is the remarkable story of how this humble language took vigorous root in Eastern European shtetls and in the Jewish quarters of cities across Europe; how it achieved a rich literary flowering between the wars in Europe and America; how it was rejected by emancipated Jews; and how it fell victim to the Holocaust. And also how, in yet another twist of destiny, Yiddish today is becoming the darling of academia.
Yiddish is a history as story, a tale of flesh-and-blood people with manic humor, visionary courage, brilliant causes, and glorious flaws. It will delight everyone who cares about language, literature, and culture.
©2001 Miriam Weinstein (P)2012 Steerforth Press L.L.C.
“A charming and highly readable history of the language . . . Weinstein succeeds in her efforts to recreate the sound of a world that is gone forever.” (The Washington Post)
“Yiddish: A Nation of Words reads like a folktale peppered with passionate characters." (The Boston Globe)
“Almost everyone knows a little Yiddish, a word or two, a joke perhaps, but what do they really know of the history, the tragedies, and bitter controversies that characterized a language now on the U.N.’s endangered list, but once spoken by eleven million people. . . . Part of the problem has been the lack of a serious, yet accessible book to fill the gap between glib entertainments. . . . Weinstein’s bookaims to do that and her success . . . is substantial.” (Los Angeles Times)
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