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Elia Levita Bachur's Bovo-Buch: A Translation of the Old Yiddish Edition of 1541 with Introduction and Notes
Fenestra Books, June 15, 2003
Trim: 5 x 8
Elia Levita Bachur’s Bovo-Buch is a sixteenth-century Yiddish verse romance which relates the adventures of the hero Bovo d’Antona. It is the tale of a young nobleman who must flee his native country in order to escape the murderous designs of his mother and evil stepfather; who, disguised as a humble stableboy, must serve a foreign ruler until that king’s beautiful daughter falls passionately in love with him; who, though threatened by the sultan of Babylon with imprisonment and death, steadfastly refuses to abandon the faith of his fathers. The poet goes on to spin an episodic tale of friendship and betrayal, of disguise and discovery, of knightly battles, of journeys to exotic lands, of love lost and regained, of a slain father avenged, and of a hero restored to his patrimony. In short, the story offers something for just about every taste, and it is small wonder that this romance, first composed in 1507, soon became one of the most popular works of Jewish secular literature and remained so over the next five hundred years.
The Bovo-Buch was reprinted dozens of times and it came to be known in its later prose versions as the Bove-Mayse (Yidd. mayse ‘tale’). This title, because of the similarity between bobe (Yidd. ‘grandmother’) and Bove, as the hero’s name had come to be pronounced, gave rise to the generic term for any strange or fantastic tale, bobe mayse, a term as familiar to speakers of Yiddish as oy vay or mazel tov.
Professor Smith’s prose translation makes this remarkable little book accessible to the English-speaking public for the first time.
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