Never Better!: The Modern Jewish Picaresque

University of Michigan Press  2016


Never Better! concerns the polit ("fugitive"), a literary type-an "unheroic hero"-who is rather like the picaro ("rogue") from whom the Picaresque genre takes its name. Focusing primarily, but not exclusively, on Yiddish literature, Udel puts that literature into productive conversation with European and American texts, as well as critical and theoretical sources. If the bildungsroman is the novel form that is most clearly associated with nineteenth-century European novels, the polit is the figure more appropriate for the post-Jewish Enlightenment era, and especially its critique of the nineteenth century. More than a study of a particular genre or literary type, Udel's work considers what may happen when a minority author or a "minor literature" (in the Deleuze-Guattari sense, where a minority writer positions himself/herself as "a sort of stranger within his own [major] language") adopts what Udel refers to as the picaresque sensibility. She examines how embedded such writers may be within the broader national, literary, and linguistic contexts in which they find themselves, and also how they interrupt, counter, and sometimes undermine those contexts.

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