3.48 (54 ratings by Goodreads)
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Set in Antwerp and London, Esther Kreitman's epic novel tells the story of the collapsing world of Gedaliah Berman, a rich but unscrupulous Jewish diamond merchant at the time of the First World War. This is an authentic account of the world of the diamond trade and the human upheaval created by the war in the two countries. The reader is taken on a journey that Esther Kreitman herself took. She was in an unhappy, arranged marriage to an unsuccessful diamond cutter, in Antwerp, and, like Berman and his family they were forced to flee to London with other Jewish refugees. Throughout the novel diamonds exert a powerful influence on the lives of all the main characters, shaping their destinies. To Berman, diamonds are more than a livelihood, he is in thrall to them, and his unbending character reflects their cold hardness. He uses the stones to dominate, and even forces the elderly suitor of his young daughter to buy his diamonds as a dowry. Heather Valencia's fine translation and excellent introduction allow us for the first time to enjoy this powerful study of a troubled family relationship at a time of momentous social upheaval.
"Diamonds" was originally published in Yiddish in 1944 by W&G Foyle in London as "Brilyantn". Reviews are expected in "The Times Literary Supplement" and "The Times". It has early broadcast media and national newspaper interest. It has launch at Glsagow Limmud February 14.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 294 pages
  • 129 x 198 x 20mm | 322g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0954848209
  • 9780954848200
  • 917,596

Table of contents

Introduction by Heather Valencia Diamonds by Esther Kreitman
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Review quote

"I do not know of a single woman in Yiddish Literature who wrote better than she did" Isaac Bashevis Singer Blitz and other Stories "Remarkable, fraught vignettes of lovelessness and disappointment, fleeting anticipations, sometimes of joy but mostly of catastrophe" Howard Jacobson, The Times "Perhaps now - albeit a few decades too late - Esther Kreitman will become a somebody, will be spoken about in the same breath as her brothers, will be recognised as a writer of distinction" Clive Sinclair, Times Literary Supplement Her stories are poignant and powerful, evoking a lost world from a woman's point of viewA" Jewish Chronicle Deborah "The welcome republication of this novel makes available to a new generation of readers this powerful testimony to Jewish life in Poland on the eve of the First World War" Ruth Wisse, author of The Modern Jewish Canon: A Journey through Language and Culture "It's rare to find a book so free of artifice, written in a voice so unpretentious and clear, that the story creeps up around you without even letting you realize it" Dara Horn, author of In The Image
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About Esther Kreitman

Author and translator auobiographies Hinde Ester Singer Kreytman (1891-1954), known in English as Esther Kreitman, was was born in BiAgoraj, Poland to a rabbinic Jewish family. Her two younger brothers became writers, Israel Joshua Singer and Isaac Bashevis Singer (who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982 and modelled his story Yentl on her). Kreitman had an unhappy childhood and was relegated to menial household duties. In 1912 she agreed to an arranged marriage, and went to live with her husband, Avrom Krietman a diamond cutter, to Antwerp, Belgium. The events surrounding this marriage are both described by her in Deborah and by Isaac Bashevis Singer in his autobiographical collection In my Father's Court. In Antwerp her son, Morris Kreitman, was born. (He later was known by his journalistic pen name, Maurice Carr, and his novelistic pen name, Martin Lea.) The outbreak of World War I forced the family to flee to London, where Kreitman lived for the rest of her life, except for two long return visits to Poland. Her marriage was not happy. She and her husband both worked in menial jobs, and she translated classic English works into Yiddish to earn extra money. Although she had been the first in the family to write, she published relatively late in life, her first novel Der Sheydims Tants (Dance of the Demons) appearing in Poland in 1936. It was translated by her son in 1946 as Deborah. Her second novel, Brilyantn (Diamonds) was published in 1944, and her book of short stories, Yikhes (Lineage) was published in 1949. Many of her works deal with the status of women, particularly intellectual women, among Ashkenazi Jews. Other works explore class relationships, and her short stories include several set in London during The Blitz, which she experienced. Kreitman's two brothers are not known to have encouraged or helped her as an author. Her books were never reviewed in Yiddish daily The Forward, for which they both worked. But the deep impression her personality made on both of them is reflected in their work. In Israel Joshua Singer's "Yoshe Kalb" an unhappy and unstable seductress appears to be modeled on Kreitman, and Isaac Bashevis Singer's "Satan in Goraj" includes an innocent girl who is crushed by circumstance, who carries Kreitman's features and particularities. (Esther Kreitman suffered either from epilepsy or another physical or mental condition with similar symptoms, and was later in life diagnosed as paranoid). Kreitman died in 1954 in London. Since her death her works have been translated into French, German, Dutch, Spanish and Italian. Almost her entire small output is now available in English translation. Fiction by Esther Kreitman in Yiddish and English Der Sheydim-Tants (Warsaw: Brzoza, 1936); translated by Maurice Carr as Deborah (London: W. and G. Foyle, 1946; republished London: Virago, 1983, New York: St. Martins Press, 1983, London: David Paul, 2004, and New York: Feminist Press, 2004). Reviewed in The New Yorker (14 January 1985) : 117-118. Yikhes (London: Narod Press, 1949); translated by Dorothee van Tendeloo as Blitz and Other Stories (London: David Paul, 2004). Heather Valencia biography Heather Valencia is an Honorary research Fellow at the University of Stirling. She has been teaching Yiddish language and researching modern Yiddish literature for many years. Published work All My Young Years: Poetry from Weimar Germany by A.N. Stencl, Heather Valencia, (editor and introduction) Five Leaves 2007 The King of Lampedusa: A Musical Comedy in Three Acts with Prologue by S. J . Harendorf translated by Heather Valencia, London: Jewish Music Institute and International Forum for Yiddish Culture, 2003 Queen of Dreams: The Story Of a Yaqui Dreaming Woman by Heather Valencia Simon and Shuster (Hardcover - 1 Jan 1991)
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Rating details

54 ratings
3.48 out of 5 stars
5 11% (6)
4 41% (22)
3 35% (19)
2 11% (6)
1 2% (1)
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