"Realism, Caricature, and Bias" explores the psychology of prejudice and self-hate in the fiction of Mendele Mocher Sefarim (Mendele the Bookseller, pen name of S.J. Abramowitz, 1836-1917), one of the key figures in modern Yiddish and Hebrew literature. It presents a full-length analysis of the tension between realism and caricature in Mendele's description of the Russian Jews under tzarist rule, of the conflict between the author's passion for social change and his often-undisguised loathing for his own people. Mendele's seven novels, five of which he wrote separately - not merely translated - both in Yiddish and Hebrew, constitute the most important and influential body of work in modern Jewish prose fiction prior to World War II. He created the first character in modern Yiddish and Hebrew fiction, the character from whom his pseudonym derives.
His works are a devastatingly satiric portrait of Jewish life in 19th century Russia and give social and psychological insight into the forces which led to the mass migration of Russian Jews to the United States, to the rise of Zionism as well as to Jewish involvement in the socialist and revolutionary movements in Russia at the turn of the century.
David Aberbach is Associate Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature, McGill University, Montreal, and is the author of At the Handles of the Lock: Themes in the Fiction of S. J. Agnon (1984, now out of print), also published by the Littman Library.