Published in Vilna in 1823, Hundert un eyne anekdoten (“101 Anecdotes”) is a Yiddish-language collection of what might best be termed light reading. The book’s episodes—the majority of which were translated from French and Polish—are unlikely to strike modern readers as very funny, but were probably meant to be. The YIVO Institute explains:
[The book was published at] a time when there was not that much available to read in Yiddish. The great blossoming of Yiddish literature of the late 19th century was still a couple of generations away, and the most common Yiddish reading matter was the Ts’eynah Ureynah (adaptations of stories from the Bible), other religious books (especially ethical literature), and a few translations of epic tales, such as Elijah Bokher’s oft-reprinted Bove-bukh, first published in 1541.
Herewith, a sample anecdote, set in the 1756 naval battle between French and British forces at Minorca during the Seven Years’ War:
In the war, at Minorca, . . . a huge cannonball shot from the enemy’s cannon hit and completely tore off the right hand of a cannoneer (or an artillery soldier) who was shooting from the vicinity of the cannons. But the soldier fell into a rage and said, “My enemy should be thankful that I only have one hand. Nu, I still have one left.” He “lent a hand” to the lighting of the wick of his cannon and shot at the enemy.