Joseph Opatoshu’s historical novel In poylishe velder, written during the First World War and published in New York in 1921, looks back to the period leading to the Polish rebellion of 1863. The hero, Mordechai, is the son of a Jewish manager of a Polish nobleman’s forests. Mordechai grows up among Polish fisherman, familiar with their legends and beliefs. He travels to Kotsk, where he encounters every significant figure and trend in nineteenth-century Polish-Jewish life, including a fictitious version of the Hasidic tsadik R. Mendel (1787–1859), Polish-Jewish nationalists, and a leading Polish maskil, who is translating Goethe’s Faust into Hebrew. Mordechai discovers the nascent Zionism of the period, through the writings of Moses Hess, and is drawn into a circle of adherents of Shabbetai Zevi and Jacob Frank. He becomes a defender of the Polish peasantry, attends the deathbed of R. Mendel, and finally decides to leave Poland for Western Europe. In poylishe velder is the first volume of a trilogy; the second volume, 1863, takes the hero to Paris; the third, Aleyn, was published first in 1919. In poylishe velder was translated into English, German, Russian, and Ukrainian, and received accolades from writers and critics both in the West and in Soviet Russia. 1