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Jack Thiessen
Translated and re-worked by Andreas Schroeder

Saskatoon (Sask.), Thistledown Press, 1990. 115, paper, $12.95
ISBN 0-920633-80-3. CIP

Grades 10 and up/Ages 15 and up
Reviewed by Louise Reimer.

Volume 19 Number 2
1991 March

The stereotypic view of the Mennonites is of a staid, pious, solemn people. Jack Thiessen, a Mennonite story-teller from Manitoba, lays that misconception firmly to rest in The Eleventh Commandment. This collection of twenty-two short tales introduces a people with a full-blooded sense of humour, a taste for mischief and practical jokes, and, in some instances, a quite remarkable flair for cursing.

The stories revolve around the stuff of everyday living - love and court­ship, family, argument, rivalry and death. Most are told with rib-tickling humour, although an unsentimental sadness figures in some, such as the account of the death of a newborn baby in "Lottie." The cast of characters is memorable: a few sentences bring to life such remarkable individuals as Aunt Margaret of the gargantuan appetite and the well-meaning father who primes his reluctant bridegroom son with a too potent dose of Dutch courage.

Andreas Schoeder has reworked Thiessen's oral stories and translated them from the Mennonite Low German dialect into English. His translations capture the colour and zip of the original dialect. A number of the jokes may well pass over the heads of non-Mennonites, but, generally, the gist of the stories will be readily understood.

The Eleventh Commandment is a valuable addition to the slowly growing corpus of Mennonite literature and will inspire chuckles among readers with an interest in Mennonite culture.

Louise Reimer, Edmonton Public Library, Edmonton , Alta.
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