Yosef Haim Brenner wrote mostly in Hebrew and often based his fiction on his own experiences and the miseries endured by Jews in Russia at the beginning of the 20th century, such as the terrible ordeal of a Jew drafted — as he was — into the Czar’s army, and the poisonous anti-Semitism that was a fact of army life. He paints a stark picture of what it was like to be incarcerated in Russian jails, and he vividly describes the terror experienced by those who tried to escape across the border, knowing that one false move could mean death. Brenner moved to Palestine in 1910 after living for three years in London’s East End (the setting of the final story in the collection) and was tragically murdered by Arab rioters in 1921. His anguished prose and haunting portrayal of an extraordinary cast of characters is a unique contribution to Hebrew literature of the early 20th century. Biography, intros to the stories.
Shira R. London is the librarian at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community High School in Baltimore, MD. She holds an M.L.S. from Columbia University.