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Jews and Ukrainians in Russia's Literary Borderlands

From the Shtetl Fair to the Petersburg Bookshop

Amelia M. Glaser

Publication Year: 2012

Studies of Eastern European literature have largely confined themselves to a single language, culture, or nationality. In this highly original book, Glaser shows how writers working in Russian, Ukrainian, and Yiddish during much of the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth century were in intense conversation with one another. The marketplace was both the literal locale at which members of these different societies and cultures interacted with one another and a rich subject for representation in their art. It is commonplace to note the influence of Gogol on Russian literature, but Glaser shows him to have been a profound influence on Ukrainian and Yiddish literature as well. And she shows how Gogol must be understood not only within the context of his adopted city of St. Petersburg but also that of his native Ukraine. As Ukrainian and Yiddish literatures developed over this period, they were shaped by their geographical and cultural position on the margins of the Russian Empire. As distinctive as these writers may seem from one another, they are further illuminated by an appreciation of their common relationship to Russia. Glaser’s book paints a far more complicated portrait than scholars have traditionally allowed of Jewish (particularly Yiddish) literature in the context of Eastern European and Russian culture.

Published by: Northwestern University Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-9

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-11

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A Note on Transliteration and Place Names

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pp. xi-13

In citations from the original Russian and Ukrainian, I have adhered to the United States Library of Congress transliteration system. Yiddish is transliterated following the YIVO system of orthography. I have transliterated proper nouns in keeping with these systems, except in cases where the name has been...

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Preface: The Commercial Landscape

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pp. xiii-xviii

Ukrainian, Yiddish, and Russian speakers have long shared the territory that is now Ukraine. This book is about how their three stories, often told separately, are in fact interwoven through mimicry and antipathy, friendship and domination, violence and reconciliation, and especially through trade and competition...

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pp. xix-xx

This book, like all utterances, contains echoes of many conversations, ideas sparked by countless books, and attempts to respond to shrewd questions. Monika Greenleaf, Gregory Freidin, Gabriella Safran, and Steven Zipperstein were ideal advisors on my doctoral dissertation, and all four have continued to offer their time...

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Chapter One: From Enlightenment to Revolution: A Century of Cultural Transformation

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pp. 3-23

A CURIOUS RENDITION of Jesus’s expulsion of the moneychangers borders the entrance to the Trinity Church in the Kiev Cave Monastery. The monastery’s icon school painted this fresco in the 1730s and ’40s, and it is positioned in such a way as to suggest that Jesus is driving a group of merchants and moneychangers...

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Chapter Two: Nikolai Gogol’s Commercial Landscape (1829– 1852)

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pp. 24-56

SO BEGINS NIKOLAI Vasilevich Gogol’s 1829 “The Sorochintsy Fair” (“Sorochinskaia iarmarka”): an epigraph from an “ancient legend” (starinnaia legenda) of dubious origin, a wistful longing for urban entertainment. This anonymous opening summons a procession of wares that will form an immense...

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Chapter Three: Apelles’s Gallery: Kvitka- Osnov’ianenko and the Critics (1833– 1843)

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pp. 57-78

WHEN HRYHORII Kvitka- Osnov’ianenko (Kvitka) retold this Alexandrian episode in Ukrainian, he recast Apelles as a Ukrainian artist, Kuz’ma Trokhymovych, who displays his painting at a rural fair. In Kvitka’s 1833 “Saldatskii Patret” (“The Soldier’s Portrait”), a bootmaker, who finds fault with the artist’s rendering...

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Chapter Four: The Marketplace Origins of Modern Yiddish Literature (1842– 1916)

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pp. 79-110

NIKOLAI GOGOL CARRIES his reader into his “Sorochintsy Fair” amid an “endless procession of ox- carts”; Kvitka’s protagonists in The Fair squeeze uncomfortably into “a carriage, impossibly loaded with boxes and pillows.”1 Born fifty years after Gogol, the classic Yiddish writer Sholem Rabinovitsh...

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Chapter Five: The Market Crucified: Peretz Markish’s Civil War(1917– 1921)

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pp. 111-140

IN 1917 THE PAST was symbolically frozen and the future seemed frighteningly open- ended. That year a twenty-two-year-old Yiddish poet attempted to capture the expendability of the individual at the revolutionary moment...

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Chapter Six: Isaac Babel and the End of the Bazaar (1914– 1929)

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pp. 141-169

IN GOGOL’ S “Sorochintsy Fair,” a fear of death lies latent beneath the gaiety. World War I, the Bolshevik Revolution, and the Ukrainian Civil War brought death to the forefront of people’s minds, especially at the market, which had become a frequent site of mass tragedy. The literature of the early Soviet...

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Afterword: From the Fair

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pp. 170-175

ISAAC BABEL’S TRIP to Ukraine to bear witness to Stalin’s 1929 collectivization took place an even century after Gogol published “The Sorochintsy Fair.” Collectivization marked a definitive end to the commercial landscape as it had existed before the Revolution and, albeit in an altered form, during the New...


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pp. 177-234

Works Consulted

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pp. 235-267


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pp. 269-281

About the Author

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pp. 283-305

E-ISBN-13: 9780810166912
Print-ISBN-13: 9780810127968

Page Count: 528
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: New
Volume Title: 1

OCLC Number: 867784760
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Jews and Ukrainians in Russia's Literary Borderlands

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Subject Headings

  • Russian literature -- Ukraine -- History and criticism.
  • Russian literature -- Jewish authors -- History and criticism.
  • Ukrainian literature -- 19th century -- History and criticism.
  • Ukrainian literature -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
  • Yiddish literature -- Ukraine -- History and criticism.
  • Ukraine -- Ethnic relations -- History.
  • Markets in literature.
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