In Job Dulder’s Balances: Petr Guber and Russian-Polish-Jewish Relations during World War I
Providing the literary and philosophical comparative context of Petr Guber’s short story “Job Dulder (A Variation on the Old Theme)” (1923), the essay analyses a pre-Holocaust literary treatment of the Book of Job, enacting the collision of the traditional (Judaic) worldview of East European Jews with disastrous sides of modernity in Word War I and its aftermath. The paper juxtaposes two major actualizations of the Book of Job in modernist texts — (1) its appraisal in In Job Balances (1929) by Russian-Jewish existential philosopher Lev Shestov as a basis for his distinction between European rational philosophy and metaphysical belief and (2) a self-consciously anti-cathartic literary re-enactments of the Job story in Ilya Ehrenburg’s The Extraordinary Adventures of Julio Jurenito and his Disciples (1922), Guber’s story, and Isaac Bashevis Singer’s “Job” (1970). The essay shows in what historical and ideological contexts these post-metaphysical subversions of the biblical proto-text are rooted. In these terms, “Job Dulder” presents an important variant of the Modernist thematization of the Job story. It situates the Jewish predicament between the hammer and the anvil of both Russian and Polish nationalisms during WWI. I argue that this representation of the precariousness of Russian-Polish-Jewish relations was generated by a specific historical and ideological situation in Soviet Russia in the early 1920s.