Wandering Soul: The Dybbuk’s Creator, S. Ansky
by Gabriella Safran
Harvard University Press. 353 pages, $29.95
IN WANDERING SOUL, Gabriella Safran has written an erudite biography of the Yiddish radical, Russian revolutionary, writer, ethnographer, and playwright S. Ansky (or An-sky), who’s best remembered for his haunting play, The Dybbuk: Between Two Worlds. Drawing from Ansky’s own writings, Safran, who teaches Slavic literature at Stanford, depicts Ansky as a person of multiple identities and allegiances, a man in constant motion who remarked of himself: “I have neither a wife, nor children, nor a house, nor even an apartment, nor belongings, nor any settled habits.”
Ansky’s restlessness is evident early in his career and can be seen in his initial decision to change his very Jewish name from Shloyme-Zanvl Rappoport to S. Ansky.