The Five: A Novel of Jewish Life in Turn-of-the-Century Odessa

The Five: A Novel of Jewish Life in Turn-of-the-Century Odessa


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"The beginning of this tale of bygone days in Odessa dates to the dawn of the twentieth century. At that time we used to refer to the first years of this period as the 'springtime,' meaning a social and political awakening. For my generation, these years also coincided with our own personal springtime, in the sense that we were all in our youthful twenties. And both of these springtimes, as well as the image of our carefree Black Sea capital with acacias growing along its steep banks, are interwoven in my memory with the story of one family in which there were five children: Marusya, Marko, Lika, Serezha, and Torik."—from The Five

The Five is an captivating novel of the decadent fin-de-siècle written by Vladimir Jabotinsky (1880–1940), a controversial leader in the Zionist movement whose literary talents, until now, have largely gone unrecognized by Western readers. The author deftly paints a picture of Russia's decay and decline—a world permeated with sexuality, mystery, and intrigue. Michael R. Katz has crafted the first English-language translation of this important novel, which was written in Russian in 1935 and published a year later in Paris under the title Pyatero.

The book is Jabotinsky's elegaic paean to the Odessa of his youth, a place that no longer exists. It tells the story of an upper-middle-class Jewish family, the Milgroms, at the turn of the century. It follows five siblings as they change, mature, and come to accept their places in a rapidly evolving world. With flashes of humor, Jabotinsky captures the ferment of the time as reflected in political, social, artistic, and spiritual developments. He depicts with nostalgia the excitement of life in old Odessa and comments poignantly on the failure of the dream of Jewish assimilation within the Russian empire.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780801442667
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Publication date: 04/13/2005
Series: 2/21/2006
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.76(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Michael R. Katz is C. V. Starr Professor of Russian Studies at Middlebury College. He is the author of The Literary Ballad in Early Nineteenth-Century Russian Literature and Dreams and the Unconscious in Nineteenth-Century Russian Fiction. Katz is also the translator of many novels, including Nikolai Chernyshevsky's What Is to Be Done? and Mikhail Artsybashev's Sanin, both from Cornell. Vladimir Jabotinsky was a Russian Jewish Revisionist Zionist leader, author, poet, orator, soldier and founder of the Jewish Self-Defense Organization in Odessa. With Joseph Trumpeldor, he co-founded the Jewish Legion[2] of the British army in World War I. Later he established several Jewish organizations in what was then called Palestine, including Beitar, HaTzohar and the Irgun. Michael Stanislawski is Nathan J. Miller Professor of Jewish History at Columbia University and the author of several books, including Zionism and the Fin de Siècle: Cosmopolitanism and Nationalism from Nordau to Jabotinsky.

What People are Saying About This

Steven J. Zipperstein

"Vladimir Jabotinsky is best known for his fiery, uncompromising politics but he was a supple, vivid writer of Russian non-fiction and fiction, and The Five is, undoubtedly, his greatest narrative achievement. It is a sensitive and evocative treatment of a little-remembered, but crucial slice of late imperial Russian Jewish life and, above all, a love story in which the city of Odessa itself is the prime protagonist."

Judith Deutsch Kornblatt

"With the exposure to a broad international audience afforded by this new English translation, The Five will become wonderfully important to a variety of different readers. There is nothing else quite like it; it differs both from Jabotinsky's earlier novel and from his political and other nonfictional writings. At the same time, the novel forms part of the whole of Jabotinsky's life work. It connects him, and much of the Zionist program, quite closely to Russian history, Russian culture, and Russian concerns, a fact that is often forgotten from the contemporary Israeli perspective."

Ruth Wisse

"Seldom has love for a society blended so poignantly with augury of its demise as in this marvelous novel about Odessa Jews at the beginning of the twentieth century. Vladimir Jabotinsky the brilliant novelist anticipates the career of Ze'ev Jabotinsky the Zionist leader who urged the evacuation of the Jews from Eastern Europe."

Sidney Monas

"This lyrical, in places almost sentimental, novel of turn-of-the-twentieth-century upper-middle-class Jewish life and its intertwining with the rest of that extraordinary cosmopolitan Russian port-city of Odessa, by the famously hard-bitten, extremist-Zionist, Vladimir Jabotinsky, radical founder of the Irgun and maker of much trouble for British-occupied Palestine, adds a dimension of meaning to a city also vividly portrayed in the better-known stories of Isaac Babel and the memoirs of Konstantin Paustovsky. Michael Katz's supple, readable translation brings this almost forgotten Russian novel back to life, adding it to what we can now call theOdessa text of Russian Literature."

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