An Amateur Performance by Lev Levanda

An Amateur Performance by Lev Levanda

Reminiscences of a Student in the 1850s

Jews of Russia & Eastern Europe and Their Legacy

Editor: Brian Horowitz
Translator: Hugh McLean
Preface: William Craft Brumfield

Translated for the first time in English, Lev Levanda’s brilliant coming-of-age story of Russian Jewish students on the cusp of modernity in their struggle against religious chauvinism and an oppressive government.

Russia’s best Jewish writer in the nineteenth-century Lev Levanda (1835-1888) is still barely known in the English-speaking world today. His famous novel from 1873, Seething Times, has still not been published in its entirety. Here for the first time is one of his major novels in his entirety, An Amateur Performance (Reminiscences of a Student in the 1850s, translated with elegance by Hugh McLean and edited by Brian Horowitz and Conor Daly. This work from 1882 describes the rush by Jews to the government schools, secular education, and the lights of enlightenment. At the same time Levanda shows the truth: students with no preparation, confusion over the new ideas, and the repressive power of the Russian government. Levanda recounts his own struggles, risks, creative vitality in the goal of making a script that the schoolboys would perform, despite the dangers from the authorities.

In essence it’s a sociological study of Russian Jewry in the 1850s as remembered by a writer who fought for progress, Jewish integration and development, and who ultimately paid for his goals with his life.

Year first published: 2022

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