NABOKV-L post 0014709, Mon, 22 Jan 2007 15:04:19 -0800

jewish "Bodkin" tradition?

The bodkin is supposed to make the bride laugh. A beautiful tradition.

from Carolyn to the List,

I had never heard of this tradition, and suspected that the Flying Karamazov
brother was probably making a joke.

However I did find a reference to a type of Jewish comedian called a bodkin
- - it does exist, or did in shtetl days, but the description I found
doesn't seem particularly beautiful!

While both Jews and Gentiles enjoy Fiddler on the Roof style representations
shtetl life, these images of Eastern European Jewish ghettoes are highly
idealized and one-sided. In much of his work, Chagall tried to undermine
overly rosy stereotypes, and nowhere is this more evident than in the mural
painted for the opening of the Moscow Yiddish Theatre.

The Moscow Yiddish Theatre was open from 1919 to 1949 and proved to be one
of the most successful Yiddish theatres in the world. In 1920, Chagall was
commissioned to paint a mural for the theatre, which consisted of a series
panels on the origins of various Jewish art forms. These panels were
subversive and exposed many aspects of the shtetl underworld. For instance,
Chagall¹s panel on Jewish theatre implies that its origin is the bodkin, a
type of
Jewish comedian who joked about homosexuality and farting and whose insults
were so biting that they weren¹t even funny. Another panel is interpreted as
saying that Jewish literature has its beginnings in humble grandmothers¹
while another depicts a Jewish peasant urinating on a pig.


Search the archive:
Contact the Editors:,
Visit Zembla:
View Nabokv-L policies: