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From Kabbalah to Class Struggle: Expressionism, Marxism, and Yiddish Literature in the Life and Work of Meir Wiener
by Mikhail Krutikov
Stanford University Press, 2010
Cloth: 978-0-8047-7007-1 | eISBN: 978-0-8047-7725-4
Library of Congress Classification PJ5129.W52Z74 2011
Dewey Decimal Classification 839/.1309

From Kabbalah to Class Struggle is an intellectual biography of Meir Wiener (1893–1941), an Austrian Jewish intellectual and a student of Jewish mysticism who emigrated to the Soviet Union in 1926 and reinvented himself as a Marxist scholar and Yiddish writer. His dramatic life story offers a fascinating glimpse into the complexities and controversies of Jewish intellectual and cultural history of pre-war Europe.

Wiener made a remarkable career as a Yiddish scholar and writer in the Stalinist Soviet Union and left an unfinished novel about Jewish intellectual bohemia of Weimar Berlin. He was a brilliant intellectual, a controversial thinker, a committed communist, and a great Yiddish scholar—who personally knew Lenin and Rabbi Kook, corresponded with Martin Buber and Hugo von Hofmannsthal, and argued with Gershom Scholem and Georg Lukács. His intellectual biography brings Yiddish to the forefront of the intellectual discourse of interwar Europe.
Mikhail Krutikov is Associate Professor of Slavic and Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and the author of Yiddish Fiction and the Crisis of Modernity, 1905-1914 (Stanford University Press, 2001).

"This fascinating book offers the first complete evaluation of the legacy of Meir Wiener, one of the most prominent Jewish intellectuals and writers of the twentieth century. Wiener was, until now, deprived of well deserved interest and fame because he chose to share the fortunes of the Soviet Yiddish Communist establishment and dedicate himself to the study of modern Yiddish literature and its classics. Krutikov is an ideal commentator, equipped with all the erudition and sophistication the assessment of Wiener's multi-faceted legacy necessitates."—Dan Miron, Columbia University

"This groundbreaking study pushes the boundaries of the monograph genre beyond the recovery of a much neglected great Yiddish scholar and writer, Meir Wiener, to revolutionize how we do Jewish cultural history. Krutikov lays out in fascinating detail the story of the unlikely marriage of German expressionism, Jewish mysticism and Soviet Marxism, showing that embracing such contradictory trends was in fact the norm in 20th century Jewish avant-garde literature. An extraordinary achievement of multilingual archival research, this book leads us through the life and afterlife not only of its protagonist but also of European Jewish modernism as a whole, all the way to its coded but stubborn survival in the heart of Soviet socialist realism."—Chana Kronfeld, University of California, Berkeley


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