The Extraordinary Voyages of the Yiddish Jules Verne, with Sebastian Schulman

A Live, Online Event Recorded Via Zoom on January 7, 2021

Whether it was on the Lower East Side of New York or in the shtetlekh of Eastern Europe, Yiddish speakers were voracious readers of Jules Verne (1828–1905), the 19th century’s most celebrated author of science fiction. With stories of adventure that crossed borders and investigated new technologies, these books had a direct appeal for Yiddish readers that were daily faced by the challenges of industrialization and mass immigration. But does Jules Verne en français really resemble his counterpart af yidish? This presentation will explore how Verne’s Yiddish translators reshaped the writer, at once domesticating him to fit the norms of Jewish readership, while at the same time using Verne to advance a message of modernization, science, and empire to their supposedly backward and superstitious readers. Based on close readings across several languages, this lecture will show how these processes created a distinctly Yiddish “Zhul Vern,” a member of the Jewish literary pantheon that was related to, but somehow very different from his Parisian namesake.

This program is co-sponsored with the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

We’ll be regularly presenting virtual programs on a range of topics related to Yiddish and modern Jewish literature and culture. You’ll find the full schedule and event listings at yiddishbookcenter.org/events.

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