[Just by the way: On Chanukah, when people asked how many candles we were to light that night, was I the only person who felt an urge to respond, 'Last night we counted X'?]
There was a period, while I was in college I think, when I was very into Russian short-story writers and playwrights. I read quite a few, and was very impressed - until I came to Nikolai Gogol, and a story in which described the glory of the Cossacks. I couldn't read any further; the Cossacks were murderous butchers who slaughtered my ancestors.
Of course, if Jews were to shun all writers who hated us, we would be left with slim literary pickings; a quick thumbing through Allan Gould's "What did they think of the Jews" shows that we would lose a great deal of Western culture, including figures like Lord Byron and Joseph Conrad and Jack London. But it's hard for me to stomach reading the work of someone who views me, and my heritage, in unambiguously negative terms.
The question comes to mind now because I am considering picking up my copy of Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov. I've owned it for years, it's universally acclaimed as a remarkable work, but every time I look at it, it's with this ambivalence.
Dostoevsky said this of Jews:
... I know that in the whole world there is certainly no other people who would be complaining as much about their lot, incessantly, after each step and word of theirs -- about their humiliation, their suffering, their martyrdom. One might think it is not they who are reigning in Europe, who are directing there at least the stock exchanges and, therefore, politics, domestic affairs, the morality of the states...
Now, how would it be if in Russia there were not three million Jews, but three million Russians, and there were eighty million Jews -- well, into what would they convert the Russians and how would they treat them? Would they permit them to acquire equal rights? Would they permit them to worship freely in their midst? Wouldn't they convert them into slaves? Worse than that: wouldn't they skin them altogether? Wouldn't they slaughter them to the last man...
The decision to read, or not to read, is not a matter of halachah; it's personal. I have a hard time with the idea of reading his work, however insightful and creative. I should be even more horrified if I found myself admiring it.
What do you think?