The Yid: A Novel
Paul Goldberg’s theatrical play novel The Yid is set in the fictional version Stalinist Russia against the backdrop of a tyrannical regime, virulent anti-Semitism and violence. It is based on actual historical events, namely, The Doctors’ Plot, which was an allegation in which Jewish Doctors conspired to poison high-ranking members of the government. As a result, Stalin ordered trains to take the Jews, many of whom were Holocaust survivors and war veterans, to the gulags of Siberia. Thankfully, Stalin died before his murderous plan could come into fruition.
Goldberg’s story starts out with the government secret police barging in to arrest the protagonist of the story, Solomon Levinson. This arrest sets in motion a bizarre plot to strike back at the tyrannical regime. Levinson together with the black Yiddish-speaking engineer who fled Jim Crow America, recruit a wide variety of people dissatisfied with the regime to hatch a plan to finish with the regime once and for all, and save the Jews from their ultimate demise.
I really enjoyed reading The Yid. As a Russian Jew, I immediately connected to the book on a personal level. Although this is a work of fiction, many events that the author describes (himself a Russian-Jewish emigre) took place in real life. Goldberg uses a unique technique, namely a Shakespearean play divided into three acts to tell the story. The result is a farcical tragicomedy that very well could have been real. Character development is particularly strong in The Yid with each of their characters having their own demons and their own experiences that caused them to be highly critical of the tyrannical Stalinist regime. In addition, Goldberg does a great job of capturing the dialogue among the characters, which is heavily interspersed with Yiddish and Russian interjections and swear words, so that it reflects the mood of the novel.
If I were to describe The Yid to a friend, I would tell them that it has elements of Shakespeare’s King Lear, Orwell’s Animal Farm, and Quentin Tarantino’s motion picture Inglorious Bastards.