The Slaughterman’s Daughter

The Slaughterman’s Daughter

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

Written by: Iczkovits, Yaniv
Translated by: Scharf, Orr

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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.

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.

Published By House of Anansi Press Inc — Mar 3, 2020
Specifications 432 pages | 5.5 in x 8.5 in
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Excerpt
Written By

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.

Written By

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.

Winner, Agnon Prize, 2019

Winner, Ramat Gan Prize for Literary Excellence

Short-listed, Sapir Prize

Commended, A Sunday Times Must Read

“Fluently translated … Iczkovits explores the richness, complexity, and constant peril of Jewish life under the Russian Empire ... It’s a genuine pleasure to see all of the different strands of the story come together in the final act. If the Coen brothers ever ventured beyond the United States for their films, they would find ample material in this novel. An ultimately hopeful search for small comforts and a modicum of justice in an absurd and immoral world.” —New York Times Book Review

Approaches history in a fabulist style reminiscent of Sholem Aleichem and his disciples … Mr. Iczkovits slowly elaborates his scenes, indulging in every tangent and scrap of context, as though there weren’t countless forms of instant entertainment vying for the reader’s attention. I appreciated the pace … Today it would be a quick drive to Minsk; once upon a time the trip was the stuff of epics.

” —Wall Street Journal

Delightful … Technicolor characters, pathos, and humor are all wonderfully captured in a nimble translation from the Hebrew.

” —The Economist

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

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

Totally compulsive reading.

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