Laike and Nahum:
A Poem in Two Voices
In this poem, two voices frame, overlap, embellish, and question one another. Laike’s voice and Nahum’s voice are heard in counterpoint across a poem that probes the hold of culture, tradition, and gender expectations on women and men in the rapidly changing society of Montreal during the twentieth century. The work charts the emotional and physical trials of impoverished immigrants who were deeply affected by the Great Depression and the Second World War and who struggled to establish themselves in Canada. It unveils the sacrifices and victories of a Jewish working-class couple that experienced firsthand the lash of racism and the balm of community, and provides an intimate portrait of two people determined to build a life against the backdrop of shattering world events.
Helen and Stan Vine Canadian Jewish Book Award
In spare, elegant, and superbly textured poetic language, Ruth Panofsky imagines the lives and thoughts of Laike and Nahum, evoking their hardships and struggles through the strength of remembrance, confronting with an open heart and a poet’s eye the need to preserve and understand her ancestral and historical past through language and memory. By entering the everyday existence of two lives, Panofsky captures the complexity and difficulty of the immigrant experience, exploring the rhythms of a harsh Russian past moving toward an unknown future in Montreal, of the efforts to raise a large family and earn a living, and of dealing with personal tragedy and the larger world. Panofsky weaves an intriguing, compelling, sometimes painful poetic story of love and family that does not flinch from the difficulties of the immigrant experience and shows the beauty of the human spirit.
J. J. Steinfeld, author of Dancing at the Club Holocaust: Stories New and Selected