Today I am pleased to present a unique collection of short story vignettes: about nothing specific and everything humanistic, cleverly succinct in portrayals of people, relationships and the place in which they live.
This was my first introduction to the work of Avrom Reisen, but I could not have imagined enjoying a collection more: even being predisposed to appreciating short stories. This collection was not one that I listened to in one sitting, I did separate my listening into chunks over several days, but the stories would run about in my head until I started again.
Truly about nothing and everything, there is no common thread that ties these stories together but the experience of being human: with all of the frailties, faults, hopes and dreams that are universal. The unique perspective of the characters, as most are Jewish and tend to identify strongly with their faith and family, brings the realization that people are universally good and bad, flawed and foolish, and most dreams are similar.
Narration is provided by David Skulski: his ability to enhance the characters with emotion in subtle inflection changes, and the smooth transitions from the few Yiddish or hybrid Yiddish/English phrases gives the sense of being present when conversations take place. His voice is a comfortable listen with tone and pitch that are pleasing to listen to, and quite relaxing. Perhaps the stellar moments for me are the ones where the character he is portraying is taking pains to enunciate clearly: either for effect or because they are taking pains to speak carefully the few words of English they are not embarrassed to speak. I couldn’t help but chuckle, as I have encountered other immigrants who are very precise in their speech patterns when first using English.
Many of these stories feel very ‘of their day’ and almost quaint in the topics that are addressed, but that makes the collection even more charming and endearing. I did not listen to this collection all at once, in fact, after the first hour or so I used these stories as my ‘mid-day relaxation’, taking some time to do nothing in the middle of the day BUT listen and imagine the scenes being set. Whether you use it as I did, or find other moments to listen and enjoy, you should take the moments.
I received an AudioCD copy from the producers via AudioBook Jukebox for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Title: Poor Matza: Selected stories of Avrom Reisen translated from the Yiddish by Harvey Fink
Author: Avrom Reisen
Narrator: David Skulski
Format: Paperback, AudioBook, AudioCD
Publisher: Windshift Press
Audio Producer: Post Hypnotic Press
Length: 8 Hours: 45 minutes
Source: AudioBook Jukebox
Genre: Short Story Collection
Stars: Overall: 5 Narration: 5 Story: 5
Purchase Now: Amazon § Audible § Publisher
About the Book:
Avrom Reisen (1876-1953) was an acclaimed and prolific Yiddish poet and short story writer for the American Yiddish dailies. This is a superb translation by Harvey Fink of some of Reisen’s best short stories. At the time of Reisen’s death, the Jewish Spectator wrote: “There are many Yiddish writers who owe their success to Reisen’s encouragement. For years he published and edited, under great sacrifices, Yiddish journals with the primary aim of providing a platform for young, struggling writers…. He had no arrogance, no pretensions and no personal vanity.”