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In a Maelstrom
The History of Russian-Jewish Prose, 1860–1940

Translated by János Boris

The first concise history of Russian-Jewish literary prose, this book discusses Russian-Jewish literarature in four periods, analyzing the turning points (1881–82, 1897, 1917) and proposing that the selected epoch (1860–1940) represents a special strand that was unfairly left out of both Russian and Jewish national literatures. Based on theoretical sources on the subject, the book establishes the criteria of dual cultural affiliation, and in a survey of Russian-Jewish literature presents the pitfalls of assimilation and discusses different forms of anti-Semitism. After showing the oeuvre of 18 representative authors as a whole, the book analyzes a number of characteristic novels and short stories in terms of contemporary literary studies. Many texts discussed have not been reprinted since their first publication. The material offers indispensable information not only for comparative and literary studies but for multicultural, historical, ethnographic, Judaist, religious and linguistic investigations as well.

Contents: Preface; The Concept of Russian-Jewish Literature and its Ambiguities; The History of Russian Jewish Prose (1860–1940); I. “Turbulent Times” — The Utopia of Assimilation; Osip RABINOVICH; Lev LEVANDA; Grigory BOGROV; Yakov ROMBRO; II. “In a Maelstrom” — After the Pogroms; Mordekhai BEN-AMI; NAUMOV-KOGAN; Sergei YAROSHEVSKY; III. “At a Crossroads” — Choosing Paths; Semyon AN-SKY; Aleksandr KIPEN; David AIZMAN; Semyon YUSHKEVICH; IV. “Motherland” and “Cemetery” — Climax and Endgame; Isaac BABEL; Lev LUNTS; Andrei SOBOL; Semyon HEKHT; Mikhail KOZAKOV; Vladimir JABOTINSKY; Friedrich GORENSTEIN; V. A Pattern of Narrative in Jewish Assimilation Literature. The Child’s Eye View — Isaac Babel in a Russian-Jewish, American and European Literary Context. A Comparative Conclusion; Biographies of Authors; Appendix; Bibliography; Index

Zsuzsa Hetényi is Professor at the Institute for Slavic Studies, ELTE University, Budapest, and translator (Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Award for translation, 2002). With 180 articles in six languages to her credit, she has also authored a monograph study on Biblical and messianic motifs in Babel's Red Cavalry (1991) and edited and co-authored the History of the Russian Literature (I–II., 1997–2002). Her main field of interest is 20th century Russian Prose. Hetényi has lectured and given conference papers in Austria, Croatia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Israel, Lithuania, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the USA. Her Örvényben: Az orosz-zsidó próza története [In a Maelstrom. The history of the Russian-Jewish literature], which included a one volume anthology in her own translation, was published in 2000. Her present monograph is an extended and revised English translation of this book.

"A major study of this fascinating chapter in the intellectual and cultural history of the Jews in Russia. the significance of this breakthrough in scholarship is that it takes a post-1989 perspective on basic issues of Jewish identity, assimilation, and antisemitism with a new freedom and a new discovery of texts that were previously ignored or inaccessible. Moreover, Hetényi's interest is that of a comparativist studying a fascinating case of cultural cross-fertilization, a literature that wad both Russian and Jewish at the same time." - Slavic Review

"The book takes its aphoristic title from Sergei Yaroshevsky's tale "V omute" (1883; omut means "maelstrom" or "whirlpool"). Hetényi's title calls to mind not only the Jewish condition in Russia but also the oxymoronic Russian saying "v tikhom omute cherti vodiatsia" (literally, "in a calm maelstrom petty demons dwell")." - East European Jewish Affairs

"The author did an impressive amount of research and presents the work of 18 writers, most of whom will be unfamiliar to readers in the US. In this respect, the book performs a valuable service that earns it a place in every Jewish library and every scholarly library. The essay on narrative patterns in 'Jewish assimilation literature' is also worthwhile. A decidedly useful study. Summing up: recommended." - Choice

"Hetényi's Studie nimmt an einer zunehmend intensiveren Kommunikation teil, die von Wissenchaftlern aus Amerika, Europa, Israel und Russland geprägt wird. Den Ausgangspunkt ihrer Analysen bildet die Frage nach Identität mit den zentralen Kategorien von Religion, Nation und Kultur. Wenngleich das Buch die Dichotomie von Russisch versus Jüdisch perpetuiert, ist es reich an Details, an Verweisen auf motivgeschichtliche Zusammenhänge und Traditionen. Das gründlich recherchierte Material bietet eine guten Überblick und einführung in die Geschichte des russisch-jüdischen Literatur und thematisiert Fragen nach Zugehörigkeit, deren Relevanz sich insbesondere in den 1990er Jahren erneut manifestierte." - Judaica, Beiträge zum Verstehen des Judentums

332 pages
ISBN 978-963-7326-91-2 cloth $55.00 / €50.00 / £45.00