Dedeime

Dedeime
Stella Prudhon

(means «mother» in the language of Mountain Jews);
160 pages;
Hardcover;
2019.

Stella creates a unique image of the world of Mountain Jews of the Russian Caucasus, demonstrating their ancient and severe family traditions.

The center of the story is a large family of Savievs — mountain Jews, whose worldview hardly coincides with the current ideas about the status of women.

Time: early 1990-s. Location: Pyatigorsk and Makhachkala (Russia, Caucasus).

Nathan and Hannah gave birth to seven children, but Nathan fell out of love with his wife and frequently cheated her. However, as it is often the case with large Caucasian families, the couple continued to live together. Hannah had to accept her husband’s double life, but she let herself go completely. To feel young again, Hannah took the firstborn daughter from her son, Dovid, and was raising the girl herself as her own daughter. It appears that this is common practice in mountain families, no one can oppose the mother, who is the first after God.

Hannah: «And when Shekker, my dedeime, died, I was grieving at first, and the next day the first daughter of Dovid, my eldest, was born. When I saw her, I made up my mind at once — here is my mother! And I said to Dovid: «I will not give this girl to you, I will raise her myself, she will have my mother’s name. And you will give birth to ten more children.»

The girl was named Shekker after her grandmother (again, it is a great honor to bear the grandmother’s name). Hannah and Nathan were very rich, but stingy: money and jewels were given only to sons and grandchildren, and women were mistreated. Although Shekker was formally the youngest and most beloved in Hannah’s family, she constantly missed her biological mother Zina (Dovid’s wife). The intrigue is that Shekker always wants to go to his real mother and father, but customs and norms do not allow the teenage girl to do it.

Young Shekker’s life is «programmed» for years to come — a heavy scenario does not imply the reunion with her parents, which she dreams of. By the way, all the female characters of «Dedeime» are endowed with a heavy fate. The heart of a detailed, authentic household description comprises stories about the agonizing growth, collision with traditions and attempts to be closer to the most important person on earth — the mother. The novel doesn’t seems to move in time, and the crumpled ending only reinforces the sense of futility: local customs are unchanged from one century to the next, and the voices of women captured by the author seem to sink in the roar of this sunny, noisy land.

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