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Shtetl: The History of a Small Town and an Extinguished World Paperback – 10 Dec 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 302 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (10 Dec. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571256112
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571256112
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 2.8 x 12.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,972,289 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Eva Hoffman, writer and academic, was born in Cracow, Poland in 1945. She has since lived in Canada, the U. S. A. and England. Among her books are Lost in Translation, After Such Knowledge, Exit into History and Shtetl. The last two are reissued in Faber Finds.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy Bevan TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 1 July 2012
Format: Paperback
Fascinating on many levels, this is an excellent account of one small Polish/Jewish market town, or shtetl, across 500 years of history. In her introduction, author Eva Hoffman is clear about her reasons for writing it. Poland has an unenviable reputation as unremittingly anti-Semitic; but places like her chosen focus, the town of Bransk, show a more complex story. And while the shtetl was no utopia, it wasn't a dystopia either. The author's task is to `remember strenuously' (14) how, as Poland is now once again tainted by rising anti-Semitism, it was possible for Jews and Poles to live side by side for so long in what was, in effect, a centuries-long multicultural experiment.

Hoffman sets the shtetl firmly and clearly in its historical context: with the remarkable 13th century Statute of Kalisz, the tone was set for laws that enshrined toleration as a way of life. Thereafter, the sizeable Jewish minority developed a numerically significant middle class that was increasingly economically integrated with the independent nobility or szlachta. The Jews even earned a measure of self-government through their own parliament, the Vaad Arba Aratzot, before instability provoked by Cossack uprisings to the east began to threaten relations with the wider community. Throughout this time, it seems Bransk's Jews maintained a largely separate social and religious existence, though it's clear there was a lot of friendly cooperation and social interaction at the level of individuals and families, and that weddings in particular could provide a focus for both groups to come together. Bransks's Jewish community was clearly lively, if somewhat professionally hierarchical, with active cheder and yeshiva schools and numerous other groups.
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