The Crackpot Ideas of Yiddish Fiction's Most Improbable Scenarios Become Real

S. Ansky’s radical yeshiva boys used to seem unreal. But observing today’s political scene has taught me to understand them.

September 9, 2021 | Ruth R. Wisse
About the author: Ruth R. Wisse is a Mosaic columnist, professor emerita of Yiddish and comparative literatures at Harvard and a distinguished senior fellow at the Tikvah Fund. Her memoir Free as a Jew: a Personal Memoir of National Self-Liberation, chapters of which appeared in Mosaic in somewhat different form, will be published in September.

S. Ansky. Via Yiddishkayt.

When I began reading Yiddish literature in the 1960s, I came across a scenario so improbable that I wondered whether any such thing could actually have occurred. The work was “Behind a Mask” by S. Ansky (best known as the author of The Dybbuk), and the fictive incident was presumably based on his own observations as a budding revolutionary in Russia in the 1880s.

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