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Before All The World

Moriel Rothman-Zecher

4 Reviews

Rated 0

Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)

A mesmerizing, inventive story of three souls in 1930s Philadelphia seizing new life while haunted by the old.

'Before All the World is beautiful and original . . . making itself felt in complex and powerful and visionary ways, led by rhythm in the language and the urge to make that language new' Colm Toibin

'ikh gleyb nit az di gantze velt iz kheyshekh.'
'I do not believe that all the world is darkness.'

In the swirl of Philadelphia at the end of Prohibition, Leyb meets Charles. They are at a speakeasy called Cricket's, a bar that serves, as Charles says in his secondhand Yiddish, its feygeles. Leyb is startled; fourteen years in amerike has taught him that his native tongue is not known beyond his people. And yet here is suave Charles, fingers stained with ink, an easy manner with the barkeep, a Black man from the Seventh Ward, speaking Jewish to a young man he will come to call Lion.

Leyb is haunted by memories of his life before amerike, back home in his village of Zatelsk, where everyone except himself and a young girl called Gittl was taken to the forest and killed in a devastating pogrom.

After all these years, Gittl makes her way to Philadelphia surrounded by the spirits of her dead siblings and, miraculously, finds Leyb.

Flowing and churning and seething with a glorious surge of language, carried along by questions of survival and hope and the possibility of a better world, Moriel Rothman-Zecher's Before All the World lays bare the impossibility of escaping trauma, the necessity of believing in a better way ahead, and the power that comes from our responsibility to the future. It asks, in the voices of its angels, the most essential question: What do you intend to do before all the world?

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Praise for Before All The World

  • Before All the World is beautiful and original. It is also strange, arresting, high-risk. Very quickly this novel starts to work on the mind, making itself felt in complex and powerful and visionary ways, led by rhythm in the language and the urge to make that language new

  • 'Evocative, inventive, vivid and strange Before All the World is a mesmeric, enrapturing read' - Eimer McBride

  • Before All the World startles and swirls, and makes fresh the experience of language itself. It has it all: a gripping story, an original structure and a tender, ghostly glow

  • A ride as breathtaking as it is gratifying, Moriel Rothman-Zecher's Before All the World deftly explores the relationship between three broken people: two pogrom refugees persecuted in their homeland by virtue of religion who cross an ocean to cross paths with a man persecuted in his own homeland by virtue of race. With tragicomic adroitness, Rothman-Zecher's meticulous prose is full of delicious humour and irony, a glorious Yidenglish tapestry confirming that the world is indeed not all darkness - Kia Corthron, author of Moon and the Mars

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