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Anansi International

The Slaughterman’s Daughter

The Avenging of Mende Speismann by the Hand of Her Sister Fanny

Written by Yaniv Iczkovits • Translated by Orr Scharf

Published March 03, 2020 | ISBN 9781487006211
FICTION / Literary

Cover of The Slaughterman’s Daughter

Regular price $26.95 CAD

432 pages | 8.5 in × 5.5 in
Print Format

About this book

The Slaughterman’s Daughter

The Avenging of Mende Speismann by the Hand of Her Sister Fanny

Yaniv Iczkovits • Orr Scharf

An epic historical adventure story set in a Jewish shtetl during the final years of the Russian Empire, The Slaughterman’s Daughter follows Fanny Keismann on her quest to avenge her sister’s honour.

When Fanny Keismann turns ten, her father, Grodno’s ritual slaughterer, gives her a knife, and she soon develops a talent for her father’s trade. But in nineteenth-century Russia, ritual slaughter does not befit a wife and mother, so when it comes time to marry and raise a family, Fanny abandons her work and devotes herself to raising her five children.

When Fanny’s older sister’s husband disappears, Fanny leaves her own family and sets out for the great city of Minsk in search of her wayward brother-in-law, armed with her old knife and accompanied by Zizek Bershov, who is either a sly rogue or an idiot. Fanny’s mission to help her sister turns into a misadventure that threatens the foundations of the Russian Empire. What began as a family matter in Motol, a peripheral Jewish settlement, breaks the bounds of the shtetl, pits the police against the Czar’s army, and upsets the political and social order they all live in.

About the Creators

Yaniv Iczkovits

YANIV ICZKOVITS is an award-winning author and was formerly a lecturer in philosophy at the University of Tel Aviv. His previous works include Pulse (2007), Adam and Sophie (2009), and Wittgenstein’s Ethical Thought (2012), based on his academic work. In 2002, he was an inaugural signatory of the “combatants’ letter,” in which hundreds of Israeli soldiers affirmed their refusal to fight in the occupied territories, and he spent a month in military prison as a result. The Slaughterman’s Daughter is his third novel and won the Ramat Gan Prize and the Agnon Prize in 2015, the first time the prize had been awarded in ten years. It was also shortlisted for the Sapir Prize. Yaniv Iczkovits previously held a postdoctoral fellowship at Columbia University and lives with his family in Tel Aviv.

Orr Scharf

ORR SCHARF is a lecturer at the University of Haifa and previously held a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania. The Slaughterman’s Daughter is his first novel-length translation.

Awards and Praise


Winner, Agnon Prize
Winner, Ramat Gan Prize for Literary Excellence
Finalist, Sapir Prize
A Sunday Times Must Read

"A narrative full of invention and surprises … Iczkovits mixes real history, fable, and the products of his imagination into an intoxicating, thoroughly enjoyable brew.” — Sunday Times

“An extraordinarily vivid portrayal of life in the Pale of Settlement, an area of the pre-revolutionary Russian Empire where Jews were allowed, begrudgingly, to live.” — Times of London

“A story of great beauty and surprise. A necessary antidote for our times.” — Gary Shteyngart, award-winning author of The Russian Debutante’s Handbook and Lake Success

“Combine a thriller with a road story, Fiddler on the Roof, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and a Russian novel, throw in a page-turning adventure, a few fables, some ethical speculation, a Bildungsroman, and more than one love story, and you get this epic tale. It’s witty, wise, exciting, intriguing, sorrowful, joyous, and tender. And that goes for the story as well as its characters. Full of surprise, understanding, historic sweep, and more than a few murders, The Slaughterman’s Daughter keeps you deliciously poised on a keen and beguiling fictional knife-edge.” — Gary Barwin, Scotiabank Giller Prize–shortlisted author of Yiddish for Pirates

“Totally compulsive reading.” — Rosemary Sullivan, award-winning author of Stalin’s Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva

“With boundless imagination and a vibrant style, Yaniv Iczkovits creates a colourful family drama that spins nineteenth-century Russia out of control, and he delivers a heroine of unforgettable grit. Iczkovits wields his pen with wit and panache. A remarkable and evocative read.” — David Grossman, winner of the 2017 Man Booker International Prize

“With the sweeping grandeur of a Russian epic and the sly, sometimes bawdy humour of the Yiddish greats, The Slaughterman’s Daughter is a magnificent triumph.” — Bram Presser, National Jewish Book Award–winning author of The Book of Dirt

The Slaughterman’s Daughter is a miraculous patchwork quilt of individual stories within stories told by different voices through which Fanny, the Belorussian Jewish slaughterman’s daughter, cuts with her butcher knife in search of justice. That quest for justice is the master story: a feminist picaresque set in a landscape of visionary and intimate historical and physical detail.” — George Szirtes, T.S. Eliot Prize–winning poet

“What begins as a small family drama explodes in every possible direction in its virtuosity.” — Haaretz

“An adventure story with few like it in modern Hebrew literature … A simply outstanding novel.” — Walla

“A major novel that zigzags between characters and plots, between history and psychology, rooted in a brilliant narrative.” — Haaretz Gallery

“In The Slaughterman’s Daughter, Iczkovits presents an original take on the historical novel which recreates — with a shrewd but affectionate look back at a lost world — Jewish life in the Russian empire at the end of the nineteenth century. The story’s plot, characters, narrative style, and the narrator’s perspective are characterized by historical realism but also an element of fantasy. It is also worth noting the novel’s brilliant insights, its winning humour, and especially the highly effective and readable blend of our vibrant, supple modern Hebrew and a distant, forgotten way of life. This is a novel of unquestionable uniqueness.” — Dr. David Weinfeld, Dr. Shira Stav, and Bilhah ben Eliyahu, Judges’ Committee of the Agnon Prize

“This is a perfect, if rare, example of a contemporary Israeli narrative that is in living dialogue with the literary and historical past, drawing on it and constructing an utterly original, independent artistic structure on its foundations … Iczkovits has created a sensual, richly vibrant Jewish world devoid of stereotypes, with flesh-and-blood characters to whom nothing human is foreign. There is no doubt. Iczkovits has pulled this off with wondrous success, yielding a virtuosic novel.” — Professor Avner Holzman, Maya Sela, Amir Lev, Eldad Ziv, and Netta Gurevitch, Judges’ Committee of the Ramat Gan Prize for Literary Excellence


Winner, Prime Minister’s Prize

“We should keep an eye on Iczkovits. He is an amazing, promising talent … who will be talked about for a long time to come.” — Dorit Rabinyan, Time Out

“A major, dizzying novel animated by an inner flame.” — Haaretz

“Iczkovits’s talent is evident.” — Maariv

“The literary expectations raised by Yaniv Iczkovits’s first novel have now been fulfilled in his second.” — Yedioth Ahronoth


Winner, Haaretz First Book Prize

“Book of the Month, Book of the Year! … Amazing. Stunning!” — Israel TV2

“Iczkovits examines Israeli society in all its contradictions, its failures and its complexity.” — Il Riformista

“A literary event from a leader of the ‘refuseniks,’ a group of conscientious objectors to the Israeli army.” —

“A real novel.” — Il Manifesto