1. Abraham Mapu was born in 1808 near Kovno (now Kaunas), Lithuania.
2. An autodidact, he taught himself German, French, Russian and Latin.
3. He earned his living as an itinerant teacher of Jewish children.
4. He was a member of Haskalah, a movement that favored adoption of enlightenment ideas and values and pressed for more engagement of Jews in the secular European world.
5. He wrote novels in Hebrew. The first of these, Ahavat Zion (Love of Zion), was published in 1853. Ahavat Zion is considered the first modern novel in Hebrew. It had an important influence on later fiction, as well as on the adaptation of Hebrew to modern life. It was translated into English as Amnon, Prince and Peasant.
6. His novels, set in ancient Israel, had intricate plots detailed in poetic language. Their utopian vision of ancient Jewish life contrasted sharply with the reality of 19th-century life in Eastern Europe. His characters were larger-than-life depictions of the enlightenment ideal.
7. These works became catalysts for the Zionist movement: David Ben-Gurion, in particular, was inspired by them.
8. Mapu also published several textbooks in Hebrew.
9. Perhaps the first modern Jewish historical novelist, he was unable to support himself by his writing (so what else is new?).
10. He died in Konigsberg, Prussia, in 1867.