Mendele Mocher Seforim

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Mendele Mocher Seforim


(pseudonym of Broide; passport name, Sholom-Iakov Abramovich). Born Dec. 21, 1835 (Jan. 2, 1836), in the settlement of Kopyl’, present-day Minsk Oblast, Byelorussian SSR; died Nov. 25 (TV*. 8), 1917, in Odessa. Jewish writer.

Mendele was born into a poor family. After leading the life of a vagabond for a number of years, he settled in KamenetsPodol’sk in 1853. There he became acquainted with the poet and educator A. B. Gottlober (1811-99), who guided his studies in philosophy, history, Russian and other languages, and Russian and world literature. Mendele moved to Berdichev in 1858 and in the early 1880’s settled in Odessa.

Mendele’s first works were published in 1857. At first he wrote in Hebrew. His collection of poetry and articles The Judgment of the World (1860) is directed against religious fanaticism and the power exercised by the bosses of the kahal (semiautonomous Jewish communal organization in Poland from the 16th century). During that period, Mendele was a follower of Enlightenment philosophy. He contributed to the spread of natural science and wrote the three-volume Natural History (1862-67). In 1862 he wrote the novella Learn Well (2nd enlarged edition published as Fathers and Children, 1868).

In the 1860’s, Mendele’s views turned from the Enlightenment ideas of the Narodniks (Populists) to revolutionary democracy. His Critical Eye (1867) is an appeal to fight for the interests of the people and to change their way of life. At that time, Mendele began writing in Yiddish, which was the everyday language of the Jews. The novella The Little Man (1864) was a satirical depiction of a rogue who fights his way to riches. The dramatic pamphlet The Meat Tax, or the Gang of City Benefactors (1869) was also written in the spirit of the satirical expose of the 1860’s generation. This was the first work in Jewish literature that depicted the class struggle in the Jewish milieu. The novella Fishke the Lame (1869) is imbued with a passionate love for the life of the working people.

In the 1870’s, Mendele continued to write satirical works, which include the novellas The Jade (1873) and Travels of Benjamin the Third (1878). His novel The Wishing Ring (parts 1-2, 1888), Shloime reb Khaim (1894-1917), and a revised version of Fathers and Children (1912) present a broad panorama of the life of the Jewish people.

Mendele’s work had a great influence on the development of Jewish literature; he was the first classic of modern Jewish literature and the founder of the Yiddish literary language. His works have been translated into many languages of the world.


Ale werk, vols. 1-20. Warsaw, 1911-23.
Gezamelte werk, vols. 1-6. Moscow, 1935-40.
In Russian translation:
Taksa. Moscow, 1884.
V doline placha. Moscow, 1912.
Kliacha. Moscow, 1918.
Fishka Khromoi. Moscow, 1929.
Malen’kii chelovechek. Puteshestvie Veniamina Tret’ego. Fishka Khromoi. Moscow, 1961.


Oislender, N. Grundshtrikhn fun iidishn realizm. Kiev, 1919.
Mendele un zain tsait. Moscow, 1940.
Remenik, G. “Mendele Moikher-Sforim un Sholom-Aleikhem.” Sovetish geimland, 1972, no. 2.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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