A bold recovery of Yiddish anarchist history and literature
Spanning the last two centuries, this fascinating work combines archival research on the radical press and close readings of Yiddish poetry to offer an original literary study of the Jewish anarchist movement. The narrative unfolds through a cast of historical characters, from the well known—such as Emma Goldman—to the more obscure, including an anarchist rabbi who translated the Talmud and a feminist doctor who organized for women’s suffrage and against national borders. Its literary scope includes the Soviet epic poemas of Peretz Markish, the journalism and modernist poetry of Anna Margolin, and the early radical prose of Malka Heifetz Tussman.
Anna Elena Torres examines Yiddish anarchist aesthetics from the nineteenth-century Russian proletarian immigrant poets through the modernist avant-gardes of Warsaw, Chicago, and London to contemporary antifascist composers. The book also traces Jewish anarchist strategies for negotiating surveillance, censorship, detention, and deportation, revealing the connection between Yiddish modernism and struggles for free speech, women’s bodily autonomy, and the transnational circulation of avant-garde literature.
Rather than focusing on narratives of assimilation, Torres intervenes in earlier models of Jewish literature by centering refugee critique of the border. Jewish deportees, immigrants, and refugees opposed citizenship as the primary guarantor of human rights. Instead, they cultivated stateless imaginations, elaborated through literature.
Anna Elena Torres is assistant professor of comparative literature at the University of Chicago and coeditor of With Freedom in Our Ears: Histories of Jewish Anarchism.
“Anna Elena Torres thoughtfully examines the engagement of Yiddish writers with anarchist movements from the nineteenth century through the post–World War II period. This provocative book introduces a new dimension to Yiddish literary studies.”—Amelia Glaser, author of Songs in Dark Times
“Anna Elena Torres mines a rich universe of Yiddish poetry for her concept of ‘anarchist diasporism,’ a radical politics of migration, translation, and exile. Her historically-informed politics of prefiguration and mutual aid offers needed resources to today’s anti-fascist struggles.”—Kathy E. Ferguson, author of Letterpress Revolution: The Politics of Anarchist Print Culture
“This breathtaking study of Yiddish anarchism is at once instructive, sobering, and stirring. Using diasporism to explore the movement’s rich literature and neglected history, Torres forcefully defends anarchism as a strategy of action and ideal of comradeship.”—Ruth Kinna, author of The Government of No One
“In this groundbreaking and politically urgent work of archival recovery, Anna Torres highlights the ways Yiddish literature offers strategies to negotiate the surveillance, detention, censorship, and deportation underlying an ‘anarchist diasporism.’”—Juno Jill Richards, author of The Fury Archives
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