*Lodz (lewj). Industrial city in central Poland, about seventy-five miles southwest of Warsaw, in which the novel is set. The growth of the city from a sleepy village to the center of Poland’s textile industry is important to the novel. During the nineteenth century, the Russian government encouraged weavers in Germany and Moravia to come to Poland, where they were given free land, special conditions, and ready markets. The government’s goal was to establish an industry that could take advantage of Poland’s natural resources. As a consequence, many weavers settled in Lodz. As the textile industry expanded, Lodz’s Jewish community rose from a few dozen people to thousands as Jews arrived from Poland’s countryside and Russia—from which they were expelled. Some of these people prospered in the weaving trade; most, however, remained poor and lived in Balut, an impoverished, working-class section of Lodz, which author Israel Joshua Singer describes as “Russia’s greatest manufacturing centre of textiles and revolutionaries.”
The novel ends shortly after the Soviet Union comes into existence, and Poland struggles to regain its independence. Meanwhile, Lodz experiences alternating periods of boom and depression, and the novel ends with a period of great depression as Polish independence means that Lodz loses its vital Russian markets for its textiles. The workers’ movements that arise do not win new rights for the...
(The entire section is 597 words.)