Although its title alludes to a psalm of lamentation, this book (first published in 1908-09) is a secular product. Set in early 20th century London, it has all the familiar motifs of "engaged" Jewish writing: starving workers exploited by corpulent capitalists, former revolutionaries in search of an identity, failed strikes--the classic pained world of Jewish emmigration.
Brenner's novel excels, however, similar creations (e.g. Leivick's "Shop") on a number of counts: it was fortunate to find a top-class tranlator (Webber Prize 1989), and in itself it employs an interesting variety of literary techniques (journal, stream of consciousness, a certain drama-like quality when the narrator disappears for long spells, and some powerful albeit feverish storytelling when he checks back in). The novel goes beyond the usual socio-economic agit-prop of the time: Brenner, something of a celebrity in the Hebrew literature of the day, is more focused on ethical issues, with his compelling insistence on heroic responsibility for one's actions and compassion for others.
With its decent plot-weaving and some good comical sketches, this is a thoroughly readable book.