Yossl Birstein again proves his talent as a master of the funny-sad very wise, very short story. The 34 pieces in this collection are first person impressions recorded by an observer wandering around Jerusalem and finding a story in every niche. This is a very Israeli book that presents readers with the essence of Jerusalem. But almost every story is a collage of places and times, based on the writers personal experiences, which all miraculously culminate in a literary high point. For example, the shoemaker sitting in his Nahlaot neighborhood shop reminds the writer of his dead father who was a shoemaker in Poland, while the Jerusalem eye doctor brings back memories of the sock factory owner from Melbourne, Australia. Birstein loves to look at objects: socks, shoes, nails, but most of all he loves to look at people. The book is a microcosmos of characters whose small stories reflect the human condition. The bus the storyteller rides through Jerusalem becomes a meeting place and observation point where everyone crowds together — people from the reality that is Jerusalem as well as from other realities etched in the memory of the traveling storyteller. Birstein reveals the best of human nature and uses his stories as a bridge between contradicting characters and experiences: between Jews and Arabs, the secular and the religious, old timers and newcomers, Ashkenazim and Sepharadim. Some of his stories carry social or political messages, such as the first story, where the son of one of Eretz Israel’s early pioneer leaders, murdered by Arabs, extends a helping hand to an Arab woman who eventually tells the son that it was her father who murdered his father.
Continues the ancient tradition of the Jewish folk storyteller with sad humor. But it is much more sophisticated and worked than it seems at first glance.
Presents an entire fascinating unique world constituting a microcosm of Jerusalem society...and perhaps of the life of all mankind.
More interesting to Birstein is the wonderful collage of characters and groups the reality provides him on the street and in the bus, creating for him the poetics of his work.
English translation available (for publishers only)