Cities of Slaughter

An illustration from Cuidad de la matanza: Figures bend and kneel over bodies in a street.

During the Easter holiday of 1903, gangs armed with hatchets and knives roamed through the Russian city of Kishinev, attacking the city’s Jews. In the aftermath of the rioting, the Jewish Historical Commission in Odessa sent the Russian Jewish poet, Haim Nahman Bialik (1873-1934), to visit the town and interview survivors. The horrors he encountered inspired Bialik to write the influential and widely-translated Hebrew poem Be’ir Ha-Haregah (“In the City of Slaughter”).

In this month’s blog post, Rebecca Jefferson looks at an edition produced half a century and half a world away from the events Bialik described, and the translation history that led to its production.