The Brothers Ashkenazi

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The Brothers Ashkenazi (1936) is a novel by Israel Joshua Singer. Written in Yiddish and published in Poland, it was first translated into English by Maurice Samuel in 1936 and published abroad by Knopf. It was at the top of The New York Times Best Seller list along with Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind.[1] In 1980 a new translation was published by the author's son, Joseph Singer.

Most of the novel takes place in the Polish city of Łódź, mostly among the large Jewish community that lived there before World War II. It follows the changes from the 19th century through the insurrection of 1905 and ends just after World War I. The main character is Max Ashkenazi, who moves away from his Hasidic Jewish upbringing and becomes a successful industrialist. In the process he destroys all his personal relationships. The upheaval of World War I, the Russian Revolution, and the creation of the Second Polish Republic ruin him financially. Max is consumed by a desire to be more successful than his fraternal twin Jacob. In the last years of his life, Max realizes he was always driven by greed and does his best to restore the family relationships he lost.

This is a historical novel about Jews in Poland, the Industrial Revolution, and the beginnings of Communism. Moreover, it is a story about a man doing what he does best and chasing false idols, ideologies, and glory; Max longs to be called the King of Lodz.


  1. ^ Singer, I.J. (2010). The Brothers Ashkenazi. New York: Other Press. p. xi. ISBN 978-1-59051-290-6.