“Prus is of particular interest not only because of his great popularity in the decades of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century but because his deliciously contrarian nature makes it impossible to pigeonhole him as ‘conservative’, ‘progressive’, or – perhaps more to the point for this study – judeophilic or antisemitic”.
Bolesław Prus and the Jews shows the complexity of the so-called “Jewish question” in nineteenth-century Congress Poland and especially its significance in Prus’ social concept, reflected in his extensive body of journalistic work, fiction, and treatises. The book traces Prus’ evolving worldview toward Jews, from his support of the Assimilation Program in his early years to his eventual support of Zionism. These contrasting ideas show us the complexity of the discourse on Jewish issues from the individual perspective of a significant writer of the time, as well as the dynamics of the Jewish modernization process in a “non-existent” partitioned Poland. The portrait of Prus that emerges is surprisingly ambivalent.
“Originally published in Polish in 2008, this study is the first book-length work to consider the “Jewish Question” as reflected in the works of the important Polish novelist Aleksander Głowacki (better known by his pen name Bolesław Prus). Prus is of particular interest not only because of his great popularity in the decades of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century but because his deliciously contrarian nature makes it impossible to pigeonhole him as ‘conservative,’ ‘progressive’, or – perhaps more to the point for this study – judeophilic or antisemitic (…). Praised and denounced in equal measure during his lifetime as ‘pro-’ and ‘anti-Jewish’, Prus’s nuanced, humorous, and reality-based writings on the vexing ‘Jewish question’ receive their due in this well-researched book” – writes Theodore R. Weeks, Professor of History, Russia and Eastern Europe, Southern Illinois University.
Agnieszka Friedrich is a lecturer and academic at the University of Gdańsk. Her research focuses on Jewish issues in Polish literature and press between 1863 and 1914. She is the author of dozens of articles published in Polish and English in Studia Judaica, Scripta Judaica Cracoviensia, Polin, East European Jewish Affairs, Kesher, and Kwartalnik Historii Żydów. She is currently working on the manuscript Dreyfus Affair in Polish Press.
The book was translated by Ben Koschalka.