Sex, Magic, Bigotry, Corruption—and the First Hebrew Novel

In 1819, Joseph Perl published Hebrew literature’s first novel. A riotous satire of the ḥasidic movement, it remains largely and unjustly forgotten.

From Simhat Torah by Chaim Gross. Yeshiva University Museum/Center for Jewish History/Flickr.

From Simhat Torah by Chaim Gross. Yeshiva University Museum/Center for Jewish History/Flickr.

Observation
May 11 2015
About the author

Hillel Halkin’s books include Yehuda HaleviAcross the Sabbath RiverMelisande: What are Dreams? (a novel), Jabotinsky: A Life (2014), and, most recently, After One-Hundred-and-Twenty (Princeton). 


With this essay, we inaugurate a series of fresh looks by Hillel Halkin at Zionist or proto-Zionist writers and intellectuals of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Some are well known. Others, like the Galician Jewish writer Joseph Perl, deserve to  be. 

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More about: Arts & Culture, East European Jewry, Hasidism, Haskalah, Hebrew literature, History & Ideas, Joseph Perl, Proto-Zionist Writers