Set in 1920 during the Russian Civil War, Judgment (titled Mides-hadin in Yiddish) traces the death of the shtetl and the birth of the “new, harsher world” created by the 1917 Russian Revolution. As Bolshevik power expanded toward the border between Poland and Ukraine, Jews and non-Jews smuggled people, goods, and anti-Bolshevik literature back and forth. In the novel’s fictional town of Golikhovke, the Bolsheviks have established their local outpost in a former monastery, where the non-Jewish Filipov acts as the arbiter of "judgment" and metes out punishments and executions to the prisoners held there: Yuzi Spivak, arrested for anti-Bolshevik activities; Aaron Lemberger, a pious and wealthy Jew; a seductive woman referred to as "the blonde" who believes she can appease Filipov with sex; and a memorable cast of toughs, smugglers, and criminals.
Ordinary people, depicted in a grotesque, aphoristic style—comparable to Isaac Babel’s Red Cavalry—confront the overwhelming, mysterious forces of history, whose ultimate outcome remains unknown. Murav and Senderovich’s new translation expertly captures Bergelson’s inimitable modernist style.
"Only in the hands of a master stylist such as David Bergelson could such descriptions not only work but seem utterly right. Even the most brilliant stylists, though, are at the mercy of their translators. Happily, Harriet Murav and Sasha Senderovich’s new translation, the first to appear in any language—delivers a miraculous taste of the original Yiddish in English. Though perfectly timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, its themes of mercy, judgment, and revolution are entirely appropriate for a secular kheshbn hanefesh (accounting of the soul). Twenty-five pages of illuminating notes on the literary and historical context of the novel will also make you feel a lot smarter—never a bad thing." —Tablet
"A must-read for anyone interested in the Russian Revolution, Jewish life under Bolshevism, and the early 20th century in Europe." —Book Riot
"Set in a town by the Polish-Ukrainian border, Judgment renders that border constantly felt but never seen; when a character approaches the border, she disappears from the view of the narrator... [there is also] the significance of Bergelson’s having written this novel of the Revolution at a remove, from Berlin: as J. Roland Matory notes, 'The Diaspora invents the homeland.' Perhaps similarly, writing at a distance from a European center allowed Bergelson to imagine revolution at the periphery." —Anna Elena Torres, The University of Chicago
"...Bergelson’s haunting tale plunges readers into an unsettling world of shifting allegiances and whispered rumors that transform ordinary men into towering figures and thoughts into waking nightmares... Bergelson (The End of Everything) writes in jaggedly structured prose that, while intentionally disorienting, often shines with wry humor and poignant beauty." —Publishers Weekly
". . . Judgment is anything but a work of lesser literary merit. Nor is it a work of propaganda. Instead, like Isaac Babel’s Red Cavalry and Mikhail Bulgakov’s The White Guard, Bergelson’s novel is an idiosyncratic portrait of the revolution’s impact on multiethnic Ukraine, as well as a dramatization of one artist’s reckoning with the forces of history." —In Geveb
"...a penetrating, darkly funny, and nuanced tale of shtetl Jews caught in the post-Revolution Civil War... an important work" —Rokhl Kafrissen
"Judgment is a tour de force of Yiddish modernism, capturing the radical social transformations of the Bolshevik revolution and civil war registered in the everyday lives of Jews and non-Jews living in the former Pale of Settlement." —Allison Schachter, author of Diasporic Modernisms: Hebrew and Yiddish Literature in the Twentieth Century
"Murav and Senderovich's expert translation of Bergelson’s important novel brings to light one of the most compelling narratives of the fate of Jews in the Russian revolution and the brutal Civil War that followed. Judgment can now finally find its rightful place in the canon of Russian and Jewish literature." —Jeffrey Veidlinger, author of Jewish Public Culture in the Late Russian Empire
"The novel offers a sensitive, and deeply humanizing, portrayal of the petty criminals arrested for anti-Soviet behavior... With Judgment, David Bergelson prompts his readers to view humanity with compassion in a rapidly polarizing movement." —Times Literary Supplement