Preparing your PDF for download...
There was a problem with your download, please contact the server administrator.
As the Dust of the Earth
The Literature of Abandonment in Revolutionary Russia and Ukraine
Published by: Indiana University Press
An estimated forty thousand Jews were murdered during the Russian Civil War between 1918 and 1922. As the Dust of the Earth examines the Yiddish and Russian literary response to the violence (pogroms) and the relief effort, exploring both the poetry of catastrophe and the documentation of catastrophe and care.
Brilliantly weaving together narrative fiction, poetry, memoirs, newspaper articles, and documentary, Harriet Murav argues that poets and pogrom investigators were doing more than recording the facts of violence and expressing emotions in response to it. They were interrogating what was taking place through a central concept familiar from their everyday lifeworld—hefker, or abandonment. Hefker shaped the documentation of catastrophe by Jewish investigators at pogrom sites impossibly tasked with producing comprehensive reports of chaos. Hefker also became a framework for Yiddish writers to think through such incomprehensible violence by creating new forms of poetry.
Focusing less on the perpetrators and more on the responses to the pogroms, As the Dust of the Earth offers a fuller understanding of the seismic effects of such organized violence and a moving testimony to the resilience of survivors to process and cope with catastrophe.
Note on Transliteration and Abbreviations
Part I: Poetry
1. Hefker and Abandonment
2. David Hofshteyn Listening
3. Leyb Kvitko's Poetry of Abandonment
Part II: Documentation
5. Chronicling a Hefker World: Itsik Kipnis's Months and Days
6. Victor Shklovsky's Archive of Abandonment
Harriet Murav is Center for Advanced Study Professor in Slavic Languages and Literatures and the Program in Comparative and World Literatures at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She is author of Holy Foolishness: Dostoevsky's Novels & the Poetics of Cultural Critique, Russia's Legal Fictions, Identity Theft: The Jew in Imperial Russia and the Case of Avraam Uri Kovner, Music from a Speeding Train: Jewish Literature in Post-Revolution Russia, and David Bergelson's Strange New World: Untimeliness and Futurity.
"During the chaos of the Civil War, Russian and Ukrainian Jews experienced a traumatic abandonment by state and society that left them helpless and vulnerable before predators of all sorts. Harriet Murav's study of the written record of this experience through imaginative literature, memoirs, interviews with survivors, and stories written by children sets the book apart from other accounts of the era's pogroms. Murav analyzes and translates the works of Yiddish poets such as David Hofshteyn, Leyb Kvitko, and Itsik Kipnis. She presents an emotional landscape that contextualizes the works of Marc Chagall, Isaac Babel, and the literary theorist Viktor Shklovsky, who merits a whole chapter. Murav treats her subjects with tenderness and respect to bring their anguish and fear to the page. Rarely does a work of history generalize so eloquently and poignantly implicitly to evoke the shared experience of others similarly abandoned without protection of law, public service, and societal norms of decency. Read this work to sympathize with those who suffered in a bygone era and to weep for those whose torment is ongoing now."~Jeffrey Brooks is the author of The Firebird and the Fox: Russian Culture under Tsars and Bolsheviks