ABSTRACT

Ayzik-Meir Dik (1807–93) or AMaD, as his favourite acronym proclaimed him on the title page of hundreds of story-books, was not only the earliest professional Yiddish writer—he was the first to earn a (meagre) living from his pen—but also the first to write best-sellers. 1 He was born around 1807 in Vilnius, Lithuania, where his father was a cantor who, refusing to take a salary for holy work, earned his living as a grain dealer. The young Ayzik-Meir received the traditional Jewish education of kheyder and yeshive, proving himself an apt student; later he also helped his father to run his business. He married young, settling in the Lithuanian town of Ziupronys where he lived a comparatively wild life, taking part in the kind of carousing which, while commonplace today, was startlingly at variance with the behaviour expected of a pious yeshive-bokher in his age and world. Dik's first wife died early and childless, and he soon remarried. His second wife was the daughter of a well-to-do householder from the important Lithuanian political and cultural centre of Nesvyzius, a town in which Dik and his wife lived as long as his father-in-law supported them. In this marriage, too, there were problems. Dik's inlaws were staunch Hasidim, while Dik himself despised Hasidism, regarding it as almost akin to idolatry.