Peter C. Appelbaum

Of Human Carnage - Odessa 1918-1920

Edited and Translated By Peter C. Appelbaum
Introduction by Dan Hecht

150 pages

ISBN: 9781733892452

A joint Publication of: 
Black Widow Press and Stone Tower Press

Available from
Black Widow Press
Stone Tower Press

In forty-four vignettes or scenes as if from a documentary film, Avigdor Hameiri provides a vivid account of the pogroms that occurred in Ukraine and Russia between 1918 and 1921, drawing from his experiences during the Civil War in Odessa after the Russian Revolution and the end of the First World War. As a Jewish soldier he faced endemic antisemitism from the Austro-Hungarian officers. The Eastern Front was relatively fluid and even civilians were caught up in the fighting. Ironically, the Russian abuse of the Jewish populations was so brutal that they looked upon the Austro-Hungarians as saviors. Hameiri writes of the violence against Jews at this time that easily surpassed the earlier pogroms of the 1880s and 1903-1906. Caught in the cross-fire of civil war, Jews in Ukraine suffered organized slaughter and carnage from soldiers and civilians of multiple factions.


Boyd Tonkin, Former Literary Editor of The Independent, Author of The 100 Best Novels in Translation

“Avigdor Hameiri, a restlessly original pioneer of modern Hebrew literature, came to revolutionary Odessa after his ordeals as a Russian prisoner during the First World War. What he found there, however, was not a new dawn of hope but a nightmare of factional violence in which Red and White forces both reserved a special malice for the city’s Jews. Shocking in its content, bracing in its form, Of Human Carnage  is a ‘movie novel’ composed of brief scenes of horror, absurdity and occasional nobility.
Hameiri, who would go on to write two classic autobiographical novels of his wartime experience after he emigrated to 1920s Palestine, mixes snapshot realism with grotesque fables and a pitch-dark humour suited to the ‘city of eternal jokes’ that kept jesting even in the jaws of hell. His cinematic tales have a visceral impact and savage irony that sometimes recall the great Russian-language witness of Odessa in tumult, Isaac Babel. Peter Appelbaum’s vivid and robust translation finds a compelling English voice for these dispatches from a time and place where terrifying chaos inspired stories filled with ‘Jewish laughter… basted with tears.’ ”

Jay Winter, Yale University

“ ‘Odessa tells stories,’ writes Avigdor Hameiri, and he has collected them in this book, a savage, surreal exploration of the cruelties of the Russian Civil War in Ukraine. Each story is a snapshot of the war of all against all, the descent into violence, that made the Great War of 1914–18 appear civilized in comparison.”


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