Wandering Soul


Product Details

Harvard University Press
Publish Date
6.58 X 9.36 X 1.11 inches | 1.53 pounds

Earn by promoting books

Earn money by sharing your favorite books through our Affiliate program.

Become an affiliate

About the Author

Gabriella Safran is Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Stanford University.


What a life! Since An-sky himself came to realize that his life was his oeuvre, Gabrielle Safran has produced the book that An-sky himself had wanted to write, if only he could have settled down long enough to do so. This isn't just a book--it's An-sky's Dybbuk.--David G. Roskies, author of A Bridge of Longing
Wandering Soul brings back to life one of the most fascinating individuals to have emerged from the crucible of the Russian-Jewish encounter. In Gabriella Safran he has found his master interpreter.--Benjamin Nathans, author of Beyond the Pale: The Jewish Encounter with Late Imperial Russia
Equal parts epic and tragedy, An-sky's life serves as a synecdoche for the experience of Russia's Jews on the eve of revolution. In this magisterial biography, Gabriella Safran illuminates and contextualizes An- sky's complex character, while remaining true to its profound ambiguities.--Nathaniel Deutsch, author of Inventing America's "Worst" Family: Eugenics, Islam, and the Fall and Rise of the Tribe of Ishmael
Wandering Soul is a masterful literary biography, undoubtedly the finest work we're likely to see on one of the most enigmatic, and culturally influential figures of late nineteenth-century Russian Jewry.--Steven J. Zipperstein, author of Rosenfeld's Lives: Fame, Oblivion, and the Furies of Writing
Author of the most famous Yiddish play, The Dybbuk, the radical activist Semyon Akimovich An-sky (1863-1920) was born Shloyme-Zanvl Rapoport into a poor Yiddish-speaking family in a Russian shtetl. But he mastered Russian as an adolescent and journeyed through Eastern and Western Europe during his successful, multifaceted career as a journalist, playwright, poet, fiction writer, ethnographer, and public speaker. Fluid in his identities and loyalties, An-sky never fit neatly into his society's categories, constantly reinventing himself as he shifted between his Russian and Jewish, traditional and radical, selves. His lifelong dedication to the Russian peasants often blinded him to their anti-Semitism, and his WWI diary reveals his sympathy for both the Russian soldiers he met as an aid worker and the Galician Jews they brutalized. His marriage to a much younger woman collapsed after she (fed up with a husband "who had more time for his cultural mission than for his wife") became pregnant by a lover. Although scholarly, this biography by Safran is lucid, accessible, authoritative, and nuanced and does justice to the restless, passionate artist and revolutionary.-- "Publishers Weekly" (10/4/2010 12:00:00 AM)
Today, when "liminality" is a buzzword in literary studies, a figure like An-sky seems to hold a profound truth about the modern condition...He would also be gratified to know that, even after a century, he was still able to inspire such a rich and lucid biography.--Adam Kirsch "Tablet Magazine" (11/16/2010 12:00:00 AM)
Gabriella Safran's Wandering Soul, the first full-length English biography of An-sky, is an exhaustively researched and fascinating book that will challenge readers' preconceptions of what it once meant to be Jewish in Europe...[Safran is] an enchanting storyteller and painstakingly objective historian...[A] magisterial biography.--Dara Horn "Commentary" (12/1/2010 12:00:00 AM)
A marvelously detailed biography...Watching An-sky in context, we can start to understand what he was and what he meant.--Alice Nakhimovsky "Jewish Review of Books" (1/1/2011 12:00:00 AM)
[A] fascinating biography...[Safran's] book is designed to illuminate the larger life of a heroic Jew, whose restless and complicated journey has been eclipsed by a single, darkly brilliant play. Recent years have seen renewed interest in An-sky...This new book, deeply researched and authoritative, represents a high point in the An-sky revival. Safran's scholarly tour de force is a tonic for our own anxious age, a midrash on creative Jewish ambivalence.--Stuart Schoffman "Haaretz" (2/1/2011 12:00:00 AM)
In Wandering Soul, Gabriella Safran has written an erudite biography of the Yiddish radical, Russian revolutionary, writer, ethnographer, and playwright S. Ansky...He was a radical revolutionary who held on to the past, a modernist who longed for anonymity while assuming multiple identities; a romantic who dreamed of love and marriage while criticizing these institutions as bourgeois and decadent; a lover of men who could find no acceptable place within himself or in the world to express this love. Gabriella Safran has written an important book about the life of a courageous spirit.--Irene Javors "Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide" (3/1/2011 12:00:00 AM)