Nostalgia for a Foreign Land: Studies in Russian-Language Literature in Israel

Nostalgia for a Foreign Land: Studies in Russian-Language Literature in Israel


Roman Katsman

Series: Jews of Russia & Eastern Europe and Their Legacy
ISBN: 9781618115287 (hardcover)
Pages: 310 pp.
Publication Date: October 2016

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This volume focuses on several Russian authors among many who immigrated to Israel with the “big wave” of the 1990s or later, and whose largest part of their works was written in Israel: Dina Rubina, Nekod Singer, Elizaveta Mikhailichenko and Yury Nesis, and Mikhail Yudson. They are popular and active authors on the Israeli scene, in the printed and electronic media, and some of them are also editors of the renowned journals and authors of literary and cultural reviews and essays. They constitute a new generation of Jewish-Russian writers: diasporic Russians and new Israelis.

Roman Katsman is Professor of Hebrew Literature at Bar-Ilan University. He is author of six books and numerous articles on Hebrew and Russian literatures, and Jewish-Russian literature and thought. His recent interests are concerned with laughter in S.Y. Agnon’s works and the contemporary Russian intellectual literature.

Table of Contents


Dina Rubina: The Steps to the Metaphysical Window
Carnival and Sincerity
Migration and Neoindigeneity
Messiahs, Mothers, and Orphans|
Victims and Heroes
From Trauma to the Real
Origins and Copies
Fugitives, Nomads, and Pirates
The Metaphysical Leap

Nekod Singer’s Novels: Between Eclectism and Bilingualism
The Multilingual Situation
Lingual Neoeclectism
Drafts of the Meaning

A Noble Man of Our Times: The Jerusalem Novels of Elizaveta Mikhailichenko and Yury Nesis
Ierusalimsky Dvorianin (a Noble Man of Jerusalem, 1997):an Abortive Gesture of Violence
I/e_rus.olim (2004): History, Sacrifice, and Network
Preemptive Revenge (2006): the Other’s Heroism

Mikhail Yudson’s Lestnitsa Na Shkaf (The Ladder to the Cabinet): The New Language of Metaphysics
A Ladder to the Neoindigeneity
The Teacher-Student Model of the Metaphysical Leap

Works Cited


With great knowledge of cultural studies and philosophy and with an impressive interpretive depth, Katsman … reflects on the works themselves. He manages to combine an oeuvre’s central semantic aspects in a comprehensive philosophical interpretation.
— Klavdia Smola, University of Greifswald, East European Jewish Affairs, Vol. 48, No. 1
When over a million Russians came to Israel between 1990 and 2010, they brought with them brains and brawn, violins and vodka, and the Russian language. But what could be more ‘Trayf’ in Israel then the Russian language? Isn’t Russian in Israel a kind of Golden Calf, i.e. a manifestation of the psychological sediment formed from generations educated ‘Their’ way? And yet the Russian Jewish writers who ‘repatriated’ to Israel used Russian to give life to a ‘metaphysical’ literature, as Roman Katsman calls it. It is a literature that rejects the surface and speaks an inner language of transcendence and alienation. It is a Jewish literature that gives voice to an ephemeral moment—the Jew who lives in Hebrew, but whose origins in Pushkin, Gogol, Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky provide a key to home anywhere and everywhere.
— Brian Horowitz, Professor of Russian and Jewish Studies, Tulane University
Roman Katsman’s pioneering Nostalgia for a Foreign Land addresses one of the most impressive, unusual and intriguing literary phenomena in Russian since 1991: Russian-language prose in Israel. While aspiring to its synthetic study, the book covers a broad range of writers from an immensely popular contemporary fiction writer to a leading member of an experimental avant-garde group. This is an excellent, illuminating and cogent work; its in-depth literary analysis is rich in detail. The book makes no attempt to embellish the literary works it analyzes; their unquestionable aesthetic achievements and sometimes problematic ideologies are examined with attention and unfailing honesty. Within broader a context, this is a very significant contribution to the understanding of Jewish literature in Russian, as well as contemporary Jewish literary writing.
— Dennis Sobolev, University of Haifa