‘This new collection will ensure that this wonderful writer is not forgotten.’ —Serge Liberman
“This volume collects in English translation the stories of Pinchas Goldhar. A Polish Jew who moved to Melbourne in 1928, Goldhar – like Sholem Aleichem in America – wrote in Yiddish, although unlike that author his work isn’t dominated by nostalgia for the shtetls of Eastern Europe. Goldhar lived through (and experienced himself) the rise of the Nazi party, and his stories deal in the struggle to find a cultural and ethical foothold; rootless in a new world, the old one annihilated by the unimaginable tragedy and disaster of the Shoah. From the prickle of anti-Semitism felt by a kosher cafe owner in Carlton whose shop is casually graffitied by schoolboys, to the moral despair of a suicide in a Nazi concentration camp, Goldhar’s intensely felt and clear-eyed short fiction illuminates a literary corner of Australia’s multicultural history.” —Cameron Woodhead, The Age, 11 November 2016
Pinchas Goldhar arrived in Melbourne from Lodz in 1928, bringing with him a unique Eastern European Jewish sensibility in observing the lives and concerns of Jewish existence. Utilising his background in journalism, his stories encapsulate the anxieties of displacement, along with a keen understanding of the looming dangers of rising anti-Semitism. His impassioned writing and chilling foresight have made him one of the most important Yiddish writers in Jewish and Australian literature. This collection of stories by Australia’s most significant Yiddish writer have been translated into English, some never before published. Goldhar was the literary voice of his generation, as well as a leading cultural and social commentator. This new collection will ensure that this wonderful writer is not forgotten.
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‘Goldhar’s position as an observer of Jewish and Australian society and as a participant in their overlapping cultural and political movements placed him in a fascinating situation whose analysis throws new light on some lesser-known features of Australian social and cultural life in the 1930s and 40s.’ —Pam Maclean
Listen to Arnold Zable in a short video made ten years ago by Goldhar’s grandson, Philip Rosenbaum. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZ3RlHuwj7Q
About the author: Pinchas Goldhar (1901–47) arrived in Australia in 1926, escaping growing anti-Semitism in Poland. Here he laid the foundations of the now substantial literature on Jews in this country. He wrote short stories about Polish Jewish immigrants and, despite the fact that he wrote in Yiddish, his work made a deep impression on Australian writers and critics through English translations. He wrote of the tensions, trials and mental agony of lonely migrants uprooted from their former homes trying to adjust themselves to life in a new world.
Some personal reflections from Josh Goldhar (Pinchas Goldhar’s son)
When Pinchas started writing stories around 1930 in Melbourne there was a growing recognition of their calibre, so much so that a young budding Judah Waten came to hear in Yiddish what was written. It was then read aloud with the author and Judah making on the spot translations, all oral of course as they sat with friends who could not read Yiddish.
Yosl Bergner also invited his mates like Noel Counihan and Vic O’Connor and Sidney Nolan and other artists to join the listeners. Word reached the doyens of literature Vance and Nettie Palmer about the rise of some new author and they came to hear the translators reading the stories as well. Interest burgeoned among the non-Jewish circles as later the editors of Meanjin and Coast to Coast not only heard the stories but demanded written translations which were published in book or magazine form including the 1944 publication Southern Stories.
The Age critic Clive Turnbull said that ‘Cafe in Carlton’ was the best story written in Australia during the war years. Goldhar’s work was received widely as a new and unexpected asset, a welcome and integral contribution to the national literature. Alan Marshall noted in a talk that I attended as a child that he was happy to acknowledge that our literature now embraced a significant element of the wider community, one about which little was known and never described before. He said that this was an interesting addition to the usual bush and kangaroo settings of Australian stories, a new area that enriched the spectrum. Pinchas was invited to visit with other writers who came to the Palmers’ inner circle, then the elite gathering place of the literati. Goldhar was gladly brought into the realms of Australian literature on fully equal terms in the years between 1930 and 1946.Pam McLean observed that she saw his name crop up so often in different contexts that she became intrigued about who this Goldhar character could have been, as she noted his links with various artists, poets, critics, editors, academics and journalists. The numerous references to Goldhar that she saw in her research indicated he was some sort of pivotal figure on the cultural scene, moving easily among numerous sets of creative people in the arts, not simply a figure in Jewish cultural circles. The headmaster of the Yiddish school, Joseph Giligich, invited him to offer a few children’s stories to the school’s magazine .’The Fight’ and ‘Sale of Joseph’ have since appeared in English as well.
When the City of Melbourne wanted to acknowledge the Jewish presence in Carlton before 1950, they asked the University for a name. The result was Goldhar Place, near Elgin, Lygon and Faraday Streets, once the hub of Jewish Carlton before the shift to Caulfield.