‘Lilting and melancholy as a Leonard Cohen song, the story is a tender portrait of the narrator’s family’
— The Tablet - The International Catholic News Weekly
Shtetl Love Song Grigory Kanovich - Copy.jpg

Shtetl Love Song

Grigory Kanovich

Translated from Russian by Yisrael Cohen


In ‘Shtetl Love Song’ Grigory Kanovich tells the story of his mother and in doing so peels back the surface of the Jewish community that lived in pre-war Lithuania.

Set against the backdrop of the political turmoil of 1930s, Kanovich lovingly recalls his native Jonava; its rich merchants and impoverished cobblers, the beggars and the gossips. He traces the growing fear of the Nazis, the Russian invasion, the political persecution and the arrests and the exiles that shaped a nation.

‘Shtetl Love Song’ is a requiem for the pre-war Jewish shtetl, for a people and a way of life that was destroyed in the maelstrom of war.

‘I had intended for quite a long time to write about my mother with that joyous enthusiasm and abundant detail with which it is fitting to recall one's parents, the people closest and dearest to you’

‘Poignant, informative and lyrical… Kanovich is a natural story-teller… Shtetl Love Song evokes a sense of lost community, one of blacksmiths, haberdashers, cobblers, butchers and bakers, with each caste cherishing its own tiny synagogue.’

The Jewish Chronicle

 ‘Kanovich feels as if he is turning the handle of a childhood music box, allowing its melody to conjure the personalities he had encountered in his early youth’

The LA Review of Books

 ‘Kanovich makes us feel and see a world that has long disappeared.’

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

 Kanovich ‘writes with a subtle humour that makes the world of the story very vivid and authentic.’

The Canadian Jewish News

 ‘A majestic, affectionate, totally gripping but unsentimental account of a way of life, the loss of which has made Eastern Europe a lesser place… a vivid, unforgettable picture’

The Riveter

 ‘One of the most important Jewish authors of our time’

Forward Magazine


Grigory Kanovich, born 1929, is one of the most prominent modern Lithuanian Jewish writers, winner of Lithuanian National Prize for Culture and Arts. Kanovich was born into a traditional Jewish family in the Lithuanian town of Jonava. He has written more than ten novels – a virtual epic saga – dealing with the vicissitudes of the history of Eastern European Jewry from the 19th century to the present day.

‘Probably the last link in the chain is Grigory Kanovich’ Tomas Venclova