Joseph Opatoshu's "Romance of a Horse Thief"

Resource Kit by
Sonia Gollance

Module Content



When people think about character types in Yiddish literature, healthy, illiterate Jewish criminals do not always come to mind. Yet Joseph Opatoshu’s naturalist novella A roman fun a ferd-ganef (Romance of a Horse Thief) established his literary reputation and offered a new type of Jewish male character who might arguably seem more at home on the American frontier than in a shtetl in Russian Poland. Romance of a Horse Thief was first published in 1912 in Shriftn (Writings), a publication of the American Yiddish modernist group Di yunge (the Young Ones) that was targeted at the Yiddish-speaking intelligentsia. The novella was reprinted in book form in 1917, and very loosely adapted into a 1971 film starring Yul Brenner. This kit contains resources that explore the ways that Opatoshu’s underworld characters continue to challenge, surprise, and entertain us today. All page and chapter designations in this kit follow David G. Roskies's English translation.

Cover image: Poster from movie adaptation of the novella, Romance of a Horsethief [sic], 1971.