Wandering Stars

Wandering Stars

3.91 (198 ratings by Goodreads)
By (author)  , Translated by 

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In a small shtetl in Bessarabia in the early twentieth century, a traveling Yiddish acting company comes to town. The townspeople react in unison: 'What is this? Actor-types? Comedians? Who needs them'? But for Reisel, daughter of a poor cantor, and Leibel, son of a rich man, the theatre is magic, and they immediately fall under its spell. Fleeing their small town, they run off together with the acting company but soon become separated from each other. Reisel goes on to become a star on the concert stage, and Leibel a sensation on the theatrical stage. They take new names - Reisel becoming Rosa Spivak, and Leibel becoming Leo Rafalesko - and repeatedly try to meet, but they are kept apart by their aspirations and successes, and by the interventions of a motley cast of impresarios, who exploit them for their own enrichment. They are wandering stars, shooting from stage to stage, from city to city, touring all the major European capitals and eventually reaching New York, a city of dreams shattered and fulfilled, of romance thwarted and consummated.
It is the journey of a lifetime, a journey played out in every generation, and within every life, and Sholem Aleichem captures it with uncommon poignancy and richness, and with the humor, whimsy, and wistfulness that are his hallmarks.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 320 pages
  • 136 x 212 x 26mm | 358.34g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 0143117459
  • 9780143117452
  • 97,302

Review quote

"An uproarious, sprawling masterpiece by a grand Yiddish storyteller. . . . This mischievous, compassionate, and chaotic story . . . is big, broad, and a little bawdy, a rough-and-tumble group of stars, starmakers, and wannabes. . . . If Jane Austen had been a Russian-Jewish wiseguy born in the 19th century, instead of an English Protestant smarty pants born in the 18th, she might have been Sholem Aleichem-and she might have written Wandering Stars. . . . This is the Big Apple Circus of novels, and Sholem Aleichem is a ringmaster with chutzpah."
--Amy Bloom, O: The Oprah Magazine "Blisteringly funny, extraordinarily moving, revelatory . . . Wandering Stars is a great novel about theater, an invaluable account of the Jewish theater of the diaspora, but it's equally a brilliant exploration of liberation's outrageous, tumultuous motion through human society and the human soul."
--Tony Kushner, from the Foreword

"Fascinating . . . Fun and funny . . . Wandering Stars, brought skillfully into a gentile tongue by Aliza Shevrin . . . allows Sholem Aleichem to set up all kinds of dramatic near misses and gives him room to indulge in his comic talent for sketching quick portraits of all kinds of Jewish stock characters, from the sainted mother to the scavenging pimp."
--Harper's Magazine

"Freshly and lucidly translated . . . Wandering Stars is clearly the invention of a gifted storyteller [and] is a wistful reminder of why Sholem Aleichem achieved celebrity in his own day. . . . A century-and-a-half after the birth of its author, the publication of Wandering Stars is both an act of homage to the author and a source of rare pleasure for a new generation of readers."
--Los Angeles Times

"This romantic epic captures, with whimsy and pathos, the experience of the Jewish diaspora at the beginning of the twentieth century."
--The New Yorker

"A story full of joy and the kind of provocative, rich theater that Kushner calls 'emancipatory magic.' "
--Chicago Tribune

"This book is special. . . . Well worth reading, even savoring and re-reading . . . The supporting cast of characters is masterfully drawn. . . . They are brimming with life. . . . Sholem Aleichem has us convinced that life without laughter is no life. . . . A delightful book."
--Theodore Bikel, Moment Magazine

"If you liked Fiddler on the Roof, you're bound to love the first full translation of Wandering Stars."
--The Boston Phoenix

"Engaging . . . Sholem Aleichem's genius was to turn the very humility of Yiddish into a literary strength, [and] Wandering Stars is a significant part of Sholem Aleichem's oeuvre. . . . [Its] satirical glimpses of the world of Yiddish theater . . . are one of the novel's chief pleasures."

"In Sholem Aleichem's hands, the Yiddish theater becomes the stage for a story of the quintessential Jewish experience."
--Jewish News

"Masterfully translated . . . Highly recommended."
--Library Journal, starred review

"Aliza Shevrin's translation of Wandering Stars belongs to the rarest of all literary forms: it's a real mechaye!"
--Michael Wex, author of Born to Kvetch and Just Say Nu
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About Sholom Aleichem

SHOLOM ALEICHEM is the pen name of Sholem Rabinovitch (1859-1916), the most beloved writer in Yiddish literature and the creator of the famous Tevye character from the musical Fiddler on the Roof. His hundreds of short stories, plays, novels, poems, and feuilletons are still read, studied, produced, and translated all over the world. ALIZA SHEVRIN (translator) is the foremost translator of Sholem Aleichem, having translated eight other volumes of his fiction as well as novels and stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer and I. L. Peretz. She holds a bachelor's degree in agriculture from Cornell University and a master's degree in social work from the University of Kansas. The recipient of a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship to preserve Yiddish works by rendering them into English, she has also been a visiting scholar at the Rockefeller-Bellagio Study Center in Italy, where she translated Sholem Aleichem's novel In the Storm. TONY KUSHNER (foreword) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright. His plays include Angels in America, Homebody/Kabul, and Caroline or Change. He lives in New York.
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Rating details

198 ratings
3.91 out of 5 stars
5 35% (70)
4 32% (64)
3 23% (45)
2 8% (16)
1 2% (3)
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