cover image Judgment


David Bergelson, trans. from the Yiddish by Sasha Senderovich and Harriet Murav. Northwestern Univ., $18.95 trade paper (264p) ISBN 978-0-8101-3591-8

Originally published in Yiddish in 1929 and here translated into English for the first time, Bergelson’s haunting tale plunges readers into an unsettling world of shifting allegiances and whispered rumors that transform ordinary men into towering figures and thoughts into waking nightmares. In a snow-covered shtetl near the Ukrainian-Polish border, tensions run high between Bolshevik forces and Socialist Revolutionary agents covertly opposing the rise of the Russian Revolution’s Red Army. Trapped in an unforgiving landscape with their fate tied to a conflict many did not willingly join, the villagers attempt to eke out a living by turning their homes into inns and their wagons into coaches for the continual flood of strangers attempting to “escape misfortune” by crossing the border. Meanwhile, those on either side of the revolution begin to question the strength of their loyalties. Fear is a way of life, as inescapable as the cold creeping through doorways and sinking into their bones. Being seen with the wrong person—or reported by a captured neighbor or lodger—could lead to imprisonment or execution, yet poverty is an equally pressing concern. Bergelson (The End of Everything) writes in jaggedly structured prose that, while intentionally disorienting, often shines with wry humor and poignant beauty. (Sept.)