Why Yiddish is Funny

Posted on October 29th, 2017
By Dara Horn for Tablet Magazine  


As demonstrated by the ‘Jewish Don Quixote,’ by S.Y. Abramovitsh, aka Mendele the Book Peddler


Those who know little about Yiddish often associate it with humor. But most Yiddish literature isn’t particularly funny except in a horrible, un-American way: comically-told plots in which people suffer terribly or die horrible deaths. Even the relentlessly upbeat Sholem Aleichem, whose Tevye stories inspired the relentlessly upbeat Fiddler on the Roof, fits this pattern: In the original, Golde and Motl both drop dead and Shprintze drowns herself, none of which made it to Broadway. Call it anti-redemptive comedy, the inverse of the Western-Christian comic storyline where winsome protagonists find love and grace. Their Yiddish counterparts instead find doom and more doom.

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