The Slaughterman's Daughter
The Avenging of Mende Speismann at the Hands of her Sister Fanny
By Yaniv Iczkovits
An epic historical adventure novel - a sort of anarchic modern folk-story, or a blend of Michael Chabon and Turgenev - set in the Pale of Settlement during the final years of the Russian Empire.
When Fanny Keismann turns ten, her father gives her a ritual slaughtering knife, and she soon develops a talent for his trade. But in 19th century Russia, ritual slaughter does not befit a wife and mother, so when it comes time to raise a family, Fanny abandons her work and devotes herself to her five children.
When Fanny's older sister's husband disappears, Fanny leaves her own family and sets out for the great city of Minsk in search of her wayward brother-in-law. She is accompanied by Zizek Bershov, who was forced into the Tsar's army as a boy, and has refused to speak since he returned home. Fanny and Zizek are soon accosted by a band of highway robbers. Fanny dispatches the three brigands with her ritual slaughtering knife, and then flees with Zizek. The killings attract the attention of Piotr Novack, the head of the secret police, who, believing that the crime scene is part of a plot to incite a revolt against the Tsar, begins a pursuit of the pair of fugitives.
Fanny's initial mission to help her sister turns into a misadventure that manages to threaten the foundations of the Russian Empire. What began as a family matter in Motol, a peripheral Jewish settlement, breaks the bounds of the shtetl, pits the police against the army, and upsets the political and social order.
Yaniv Iczkovits, born in 1975, has published three novels (the first was awarded Haaretz's debut novel prize and the second the Prime Minister's Prize) His third novel, The Slaughterman's Daughter, was awarded the Agnon Prize in 2015, the first time the prize has been granted in ten years. Iczkovits won the Ramat Gan Prize for Literary Excellence and was shortlisted for the Sapir Prize. He has a PhD in philosophy from Columbia University, and published a book based on his academic work entitled Wittgenstein's Ethical Thought (Palgrave Macmillan).
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- Publication date:
03 Oct 2019
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What begins as a small family drama explodes in every possible direction in its virtuosity — Haaretz
An adventure story with few like it in modern Hebrew literature . . . a simply outstanding novel — Yaron London, Walla
A major novel that zigzags between characters and plots, between history and psychology, rooted in a brilliant narrative — Gili Izikovich, Haaretz Gallery
In The Slaughterman's Daughter, Iczkovits presents an original take on the historical novel which recreates - with a shrewd but affectionate look back at a lost world - Jewish life in the Russian empire at the end of the nineteenth century. The story's plot, characters, narrative style and the narrator's perspective are characterized by historical realism but also an element of fantasy. It is also worth noting the novel's brilliant insights, its winning humor, and especially the highly effective and readable blend of our vibrant, supple modern Hebrew and a distant, forgotten way of life. This is a novel of unquestionable uniqueness — Dr. David Weinfeld, Dr. Shira Stav, Bilhah ben Eliyahu, Judges’ Committee of the Agnon Prize
This is a perfect, if rare, example of a contemporary Israeli narrative that is in living dialogue with the literary and historical past, drawing on it and constructing an utterly original, independent artistic structure on its foundations ... Iczkovits has created a sensual, richly vibrant Jewish world devoid of stereotypes, with flesh-and-blood characters to whom nothing human is foreign. There is no doubt. Iczkovits has pulled this off with wondrous success, yielding a virtuosic novel — Professor Avner Holzman, Maya Sela, Amir Lev, Eldad Ziv, Netta Gurevitch, Judges’ Committee of the Ramat Gan Prizze for Literary Excellence