The Books That Kept Soviet Jews Connected to Their Jewish Past

November 15, 2023 | Marat Grinberg
About the author: Marat Grinberg is professor of Russian and comparative literature at Reed College. His essays and reviews have appeared in the LA Review of Books, Tablet, Cineaste, and Commentary.

From works by Russian-language Jewish authors well-known it the West, such as Isaac Babel, to translations of Yiddish classics like the tales of Sholem Aleichem, to postwar works like the science-fiction novels of the Strugatsky brothers and Friedrich Gorenstein, Soviet Jews tended to treasure a similar set of books. Marat Grinberg collectively dubs them the Soviet Jewish bookshelf—which is also the title of his recent book. In conversation with Amber Nickell, he examines some of these works, his own experiences reading them, their significance, and how Soviet Jews—prohibited from most public expressions of Judaism or Jewish identity—read between their lines to appreciate their Jewish messages. (Audio, 73 minutes.)

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