HITTING SHELVES #27: The Yid by Paul Goldberg

The Yid

The Yid by Paul Goldberg comes out today!

It’s the rather outrageous story of a Jewish actor in 1953 who gets confronted by Stalin’s goons during a pogrom. He responds by assembling a band of misfit heroes to assassinate their Shakespearean villain of a ruler. This debut novel has been compared to Inglourious Basterds and Seven Samurai, and the movie analogies are apt–you’ve never seen a book like The Yid before.

We asked the author one question.

How are you celebrating the publication of The Yid?

The Yid is about historical continuity, about learning something from my parents’ generation.

I will spend some part of Feb. 2—the pub date—making calls to friends who helped me. It would have been nice if I could share a bottle of vodka with Kolya Williams and Janusz Bardach, two of my favorite politzeki, Stalin-era political prisoners. Since they are out of reach of conventional communication, I will simply remember them.

I will call my aunt Ulyana Dobrushina in Moscow, and my friend Natasha Kozak in Israel. Natasha once allowed me to handle her grandfather’s Red Army sword. I put this magnificent weapon to good use in The Yid.

I will call Alyoshka Pervov, a Moscow friend, whose father introduced me to blood libel. He had no idea that a story told in an oh-buy-the-way manner in 1969 would trigger an obsession that would culminate in The Yid.

Paul Goldberg
Paul Goldberg

Pub date should be a continuation of acknowledgements, so I will thank my fiancée Susan Coll for giving me the notes and encouragement that made the book happen. Susan’s birthday is Feb. 1, which will allow us to merge the celebrations. And I will thank my daughters Katie and Sarah.

Sometime during the day, my father, Boris Goldberg, will arrive from Florida. He will turn 84 this spring. He writes poetry, walks seven miles a day and has more and better marbles than I. It’s a blessing that he will be a part of this. The book is dedicated to him and my late mother, Sophy Goldberg. There is a lot of both of them in The Yid.

At 7 p.m., I will do my first-ever genuine reading. I wrote and co-wrote three non-fiction books, and there were talks, signings and parties—but never a reading. The passages I chose are heavy on poetry and Yiddish. The venue means a lot, too. I can’t think of a bookstore I love more than Politics & Prose.

After the reading, a few of us will gather at the house and vodka will be served. In a manner strictly consistent with the traditions of the perpetually endangered Moscow liberal intelligentsia, there will be a traditional sequence of three toasts:

  1. “To The Yid.” (Za Zhida.) You begin with the immediate cause of celebration.
  2. “To those who aren’t with us.” (Za tekh kogo net s nami.) This was an especially poignant toast to those doing time for political crimes and those who didn’t return.
  3. “To all of us and fuck them.” (Za nas s vami i khuy s nimi.) Indeed, we should never forget that they change shape and color, but they never go away.

Get the book here.

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