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Riassunto: Along with such masters as Zola, Flaubert, and Tolstoy, I. J. Singer's premodernist social novel The Brothers Ashkenazi stands as a masterpiece of storytelling.
In the Polish city of Lodz, the Brothers Ashkenazi grew up very differently in talent and in temperament. Max, the firstborn, is fiercely intelligent and conniving, determined to succeed financially by any means necessary. Slower-witted Jacob is strong, handsome, and charming but without great purpose in life. While Max is driven by ambition and greed to be more successful than his brother, Jacob is drawn to easy living and decadence. As waves of industrialism and capitalism flood the city, the brothers and their families are torn apart by the clashing impulses of old piety and new skepticism, traditional ways and burgeoning appetites, and the hatred that grows between faiths, citizens, and classes. Despite all attempts to control their destinies, the brothers are caught up by forces of history, love, and fate, which shape and, ultimately, break them.
First published in 1936, The Brothers Ashkenazi quickly became a best-seller as a sprawling family saga. 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.
L'autore: ISRAEL JOSHUA SINGER (1893-1944), the brother of Nobel Prize-winner Isaac Bashevis Singer, was born in Bilgoraj, Poland, the son of a rabbi. He contributed to Yiddish newspapers in Warsaw and Kiev, where his short story, ''Pearls,'' was published, which brought him immediate recognition. In 1921 he was hired as a correspondent for the Jewish Daily Forward. In 1927 he wrote his first novel, Steel and Iron, which was followed five years later by Yoshe Kalb. He came to the United States in 1934, and within two years The Brothers Ashkenzai was published, a work that was not only an instant success but was also destined to become a classic in its time.
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