A Tale of Russian-Jewish Life in the 1880s
S A An-Sky, edited by S A An-Sky, translated by Michael R Katz
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 02/27/2014
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-253-01212-8
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S. A. An-sky's novel dramatizes the dilemmas of Jewish young people in late Tsarist Russia as they strive to throw off their traditional religious upbringing to adopt a secular and modern identity. The action unfolds in the town of M. in the Pale of Settlement, where an engaging cast of characters wrestles with cultural and social issues. Their exploits culminate in helping a young Jewish woman evade an arranged marriage and a young Russian woman leave home so she can pursue her studies at a European university. This startling novel reveals the tensions and triumphs of coming of age in a revolutionary time.

Author Bio

S. A. An-sky, pseudonym of Shloyme-Zanvl Rapoport (1863-1920), was a Russian Jewish writer, ethnographer, and cultural and political activist. He is best known today for his play The Dybbuk.

Michael R. Katz is C. V. Starr Professor Emeritus of Russian and East European Studies at Middlebury College. He is author of Dreams and the Unconscious in Nineteenth-Century Russian Fiction and is translator of a dozen Russian novels, including works by Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky.


“Pioneers demonstrates An-sky's sharp eye for detail, his clear gaze–frankly sympathetic though often ironic--at these provincial Jews . . . This book is unique in offering in English this sort of picture of the experiences of an important generation of Russian Jews. . . . A unique work of art and an important document of its time.”
 — Gabriella Safran, author of Wandering Soul: The Dybbuk's Creator, S. An-sky

“Katz has done a fine job preserving the multi-lingual environment and conveying the speech of those heder boys now turned into messengers of enlightenment and radicalism . . . pulling from his translator's toolbox the appropriate instrument to render into English the twang of the Russian-Yiddish-Hebrew creole.”
 — Brian Horowitz, author of Empire Jews: Jewish Nationalism and Acculturation in 19th- and Early 20th-Century Russia

“Michael R. Katz’s translation renders another Russian literary gem into fluid and lively English. . . . The publication of Pioneers in English . . . appears at an auspicious moment, for readers today may be more receptive than ever to narratives that convey the richness, complexity, and diversity of Jewish life in times of dynamic and decisive change. ”
 — Marginalia

“An-sky brilliantly captures a week in the life of young Jewish intellectuals fleeing their tiny villages to find the possibility of personal growth in larger towns where the enlightenment has begun to work its way. ”
 — Jewish Book Council

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Table of Contents


Note on Translation

List of Principal Characters



Selected Bibliography

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