About a thousand years ago, European Jews began speaking a language that was quite different from the various tongues and dialects that swirled around them. It included Hebrew, a touch of the Romance and Slavic languages, and a large helping of German. In a world of earthly wandering, this pungent, witty, and infinitely nuanced speech, full of jokes, puns, and ironies, became the linguistic home of the Jews, the bond that held a people together.
Here is the remarkable story of how this humble language took vigorous root in Eastern European shtetls and in the Jewish quarters of cities across Europe; how it achieved a rich literary flowering between the wars in Europe and America; how it was rejected by emancipated Jews; and how it fell victim to the Holocaust. And also how, in yet another twist of destiny, Yiddish today is becoming the darling of academia.
Yiddish is a history as story, a tale of flesh-and-blood people with manic humor, visionary courage, brilliant causes, and glorious flaws. It will delight everyone who cares about language, literature, and culture.
“A charming and highly readable history of the language . . . Weinstein succeeds in her efforts to recreate the sound of a world that is gone forever.” (The Washington Post)
“Almost everyone knows a little Yiddish, a word or two, a joke perhaps, but what do they really know of the history, the tragedies, and bitter controversies that characterized a language now on the U.N.’s endangered list, but once spoken by eleven million people. . . . Part of the problem has been the lack of a serious, yet accessible book to fill the gap between glib entertainments. . . . Weinstein’s bookaims to do that and her success . . . is substantial.” (Los Angeles Times)
“Yiddish: A Nation of Words reads like a folktale peppered with passionate characters." (The Boston Globe)
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