Abraham Mapu (1808 – 1867) was a Lithuanian Jewish novelist in Hebrew of the Haskalah ("enlightenment") movement. As a child, Mapu studied in a cheder where his father served as a teacher.
For many years he was an impoverished, itinerant schoolmaster. Mapu gained financial security when he was appointed teacher in a government school for Jewish children. He worked as a teacher in various towns and cities, joined the Haskalah movement, and studied German, French and Russian. He also studied Latin from a translation of the Bible to that language, given him by his local rabbi.
In 1853 he self-published his first historical novel, Ahavat Zion (For the Love of Zion). This is considered the first Hebrew novel. He began work on it in 1830 but completed it only 23 years later. Unable to fully subsist on his book sales, he relied on the support of his brother, Matisyahu. In 1867 he moved to Königsberg due to illness, published his last book, Amon Pedagogue, and died there.
Mapu is considered the first Hebrew novelist. Influenced by French Romanticism, he wrote intricately plotted stories about life in ancient Israel, which he contrasted favorably with 19th-century Jewish life. His style is fresh and poetic, almost Biblical in its simple grandeur.
The romantic-nationalistic ideas in his novels later inspired David Ben-Gurion and others and served as the basis for the implementation of these ideas in the Zionist movement that later led to the establishment of the state of Israel. The American Hebrew poet, Gabriel Preil, references Mapu in one of his works, and focuses on the two writers' native Lithuania.
His novels served as a basis for the Zionist movement.
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