A New Radiocast Tells the Story of Russian Revolutionary Klara Klebanova

Produced by the Yiddish Book Center, Translated from the Yiddish and Voiced by Caraid O'Brien

A newly launched, twelve-part episodic audio series, based on the memoir of Klara Klebanova, is now available. Klebanova’s memoir, translated from the Yiddish by Caraid O’Brien, tells the story of a middle-class Jewish teenager who becomes a Maximalist revolutionary fighting for the rights of peasants and factory workers during the first Russian Revolution of 1905.

As a Maximalist revolutionary, Klebanova was a gifted speaker who spent ten years conducting propaganda, smuggling dynamite, and “expropriating” capitalist resources from banks. Her memoir, which she began writing in 1914 after she moved with her husband, another Maximalist leader named Lipa Katz, to Boston, recounts the extraordinary details of that time and is marked by Klebanova’s sharp dialogue and keen observations. An excerpt of O’Brien’s translation first appeared in Pakn Treger (Spring 2020). The translation was commissioned by Peter Kleban, a relative of Klebanova; he holds the copyright to the work, which he agreed to make available for this new audio series.

Klebanova’s memoir was first published serially in 1922 in the Forverts (Forwards), the world’s most widely read Yiddish newspaper, under the title Di blutige teg (The Bloody Days). The serial publication of Yiddish works, prior to their publication as full-length books, was a popular practice in Yiddish newspapers in the early to mid-twentieth century. The major Yiddish dailies, like the Forverts, serialized the work of many great Yiddish writers, including Sholem Asch and Isaac Bashevis Singer. Reading new story installments was one of the things Jews most looked forward to in their daily newspaper reading. Yiddish radio was also a popular and dynamic medium for Yiddish literary and theatrical expression, with a diverse range of programming. The Last Maximalist draws on these traditions in Yiddish culture, bringing them into the present. More radiocasts of Yiddish works in translation are planned for the future.

Through Klebanova’s memoir, she sought to tell the story of her comrades in the revolution. As for what the author might think of the radiocast if she were alive today, O’Brien—an acclaimed actor who also voices the radiocast—responds, “I think she would be tremendously excited that these men and women that she fought and lived with were being remembered.”

Each of the twelve episodes of the serialized radiocast will be released weekly and made available to listen to or download free of charge at yiddishbookcenter.org/maximalist.