Leib Weihnachtskuchen and his Child
Leib Weihnachtskuchen and his Child is a story of obsessive passion set in Podolia, now part of the Ukraine but in the nineteenth century a backward, multi-racial corner of Europe where the Russian and Habsburg empires met. More
Janko Vygoda’s parents spend their time drinking themselves to an early grave at the village inn; their farm is mortgaged to the hilt to the three local moneylenders, a Pole, an Armenian and a Jew. Janko swears he will keep his inheritance intact, will not sell one square inch of his land.
The man he holds responsible for his misfortune is the Jewish innkeeper, Leib Weihnachtskuchen, who also arranges loans for the local peasants. By chance, he discovers the Jew is not the bloodsucking monster he imagined and the impoverished innkeeper becomes his only friend in the village. Gradually the Christian Janko falls in love with the Jew’s daughter, Miriam. He swears another oath: ‘one bed or one grave.’
The only chance Leib and his wife have of providing for their daughter is to marry her to an old Jew, the owner of the local sawmill. The wheels of tragedy are set in motion.
Leib Weihnachtskuchen and his Child is a story of obsessive passion set in Podolia, now part of the Ukraine but in the nineteenth century a backward, multi-racial corner of Europe where the Russian and Habsburg empires met.
“This is the most beautifully written translation of a nineteenth century novel from Austria. It is about pride, poor people, arranged marriages and religion. When a marriage must be arranged for a young yet poor Jewish girl who is already loved by a poor Catholic farmer the scene is set for tragedy in this tiny Ukranian village. It is the closest I have come to Thomas Hardy's Tess in anything else I have ever read, and a really moving read.”
THE AUTHOR: Karl Emil Franzos, an important figure in the literary life of Vienna and Berlin in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, was well-known for his stories and novels set among the mixed nationalities of Eastern Europe.
THE TRANSLATOR: Michael Mitchell, winner of the 1998 Schlegel-Tieck Prize, is a distinguished literary translator, with a special interest in Austrian culture. Other translations include: Meyrink, The Golem; Kubin, The Other Side; Grimmelshausen, The Adventures of Simplicissimus.