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Brothers Ashkenazi

by I.J. Singer
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Breaking away from the introspective shtetl, tales of classic nineteenth-century writers, I. J. Singer brought to Yiddish literature the multilayered plots, large casts of characters, and narrative sweep of the traditional European novel. The Brothers Ashkenazi, a family saga set against the rise of capitalism and of a Jewish bourgeoisie in Lodz, depicts a society torn apart by the clashing impulses of old piety and new scepticism, traditional ways and burgeoning appetites. As Irving Howe points out in his introduction, the Jewish past is ever-present: 'In contrast to the idea of historical dynamism . . . the Jews are left with the perennial problem, or possibility, of being Jews.'
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