Thursday 5 September 2013

Aleichem, Sholem "Tevye the Dairyman"

Aleichem, Sholem (שלום עליכם) "Tevye the Dairyman" (Yiddish: Tevye der milkhiker, טבֿיה דער מילכיקער, Hebrew: טוביה החולב) - 1894-1916

I always wanted to read the original book of one of my favourite movies "Fiddler on the Roof". I am glad I read this after watching the movie because I might have been disappointed. Even though the book is not very big, only about half of it is in the musical. I can understand that certain parts had to be cut out and I am glad they did it this way but there is still something missing.

Anyway, the story of Tevye is not just the story of Tevye and his wife Golde but even more that of their daughters Tzeitel, Hodel, Chawa, Shprintze, Teibel and Beijke. Every single one of them has their own story, their own cross to bear. And together, they give us a good view of the lives of Jews in the 19th century. Whoever didn't know it so far will learn here that they have always had hard times, they were never wanted anywhere, even if they were poor and worked hard.

I love the language in the book. While Tevye is telling his story, I hear an old Jewish guy talking, you know the way it almost sounds like singing when they talk Yiddish, just beautiful. Sholem Aleichem manages to bring that feeling to paper. I would love to read more of his works and will certainly read this one again

From the back cover:

"Of all the characters in modern Jewish fiction, the most beloved is Tevye, the compassionate, irrepressible, Bible-quoting dairyman from Anatevka, who has been immortalized in the writings of Sholem Aleichem and in acclaimed and award-winning theatrical and film adaptations.

And no Yiddish writer was more beloved than Tevye’s creator, Sholem Rabinovich (1859–1916), the 'Jewish Mark Twain,' who wrote under the pen name of Sholem Aleichem. Beautifully translated by Hillel Halkin, here is Sholem Aleichem’s heartwarming and poignant account of Tevye and his daughters."


  1. I can remember reading a number of his books years ago and liking them.

  2. I never read a book by him. Then someone in a book group on facebook mentioned it and I thought, I really have to read this book. I'm glad I did.