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Yirmi Pinkus

Fiction, 2008

Recipient of the Sapir Prize 2009 for Debut Literature

When the distinguished affluent Professor Fabrikant dies, he leaves his nephew Herman an incredible inheritance: a Yiddish-speaking Jewish Theater consisting of seven aging actresses who have passed their glamour days and now scramble to win back their dwindling audience in 1930s Romania. This debut novel, a modern version of Sholem Aleichem, is a festive, entertaining and yet extremely touching journey to a long-lost world. The plot alternates between the anti-Semitic atmosphere experienced by the old actresses recapturing their classic scenes and the story of the theater’s beginning as a Jewish orphan rescue project concocted by the eccentric Professor Fabrikant. As the theater recreates its glory days, the actresses are also fighting Herman’s greedy mother, who wants to put the women away in an old-age home so that she can get her hands on her late brother-in-law’s money. This unique, richly-imagined, novel is filled with Jewish humor, spicy Yiddish rants and gentle love for these aging ladies. As the looming future casts its shadow on Jewish European life, we savor this feisty group of old women, their bickering and mini-scandals (including one that involves some missing diamonds), their love of noshing, and most of all their commitment to the theater. This novel is a brilliant mosaic of a lost Jewish world that comes to life in modern, hilarious and often heartbreaking ways.


Rights Sold to:

France, Grasset; Israel, Am Oved; Italy, l’Ancora del Mediterraneo 


“Subversive and critical, original and queer, applause to Professor Fabrikant’s Historical Cabaret…” – Arik Glasner, Maariv

“Yirmi Pinkus describes, in a rich, colorful and witty language the funny and touching Odyssey of a group of old actresses whose journey will end in 1939…therefore, in spite of the novel’s amused tone, the abundance of comic situations and the colorful characters this book bears an elegiac stamp.” – Yhil Tsaban, Haaretz

“Yirmi Pinkus’ debut novel is a masterpiece of pity mixed with rebuke…if he learned the rebuke from the grandfather of Hebrew literature, Mendele the Bookseller, it’s clear he learned his pity from the grandson, Sholem Aleichem. He has a precise, rich Hebrew and unique humor…the world created in the novel is so convincing it is hard to believe that the cabaret is just a fable, a fable of Yiddish, of course, that even before ’Hitler took it’ has ended its historical role...He convinces you that there’s nothing younger and more alive than an old Yiddish actress.” – Benny Mer, Haaretz

“There is no one younger and livelier than a Yiddish actress and there is no culture more immune to death than Yiddish culture and the fine writing it inspires.” – Le Monde

“An extraordinary novel – full of drollery and emotions; a reconstruction of the popular Yiddish theater and a vanished world. A must read!” – Le Chroniqueur

“A joyous epic with a picaresque narrative; just like a Polish road movie.” – Lecturama

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