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The Wandering Jews

Every few decades a book is published that shapes Jewish consciousness. One thinks of Wiesel's Night or Levi's Survival in Auschwitz. But in 1927, years before these works were written, Joseph Roth (1894-1939) composed The Wandering Jews. In these stunning dispatches written when Roth was a correspondent in Berlin during the whirlwind period of Weimar Germany, he warned of the false comforts of Jewish assimilation, laid bare the schism between Eastern and Western Jews, and at times prophesied the horrors posed by Nazism. The Wandering Jews remains as vital today as when it was first published. "[A] book of impassioned reportage and is impossible not to feel a sympathetic wonder."-Michael Andre Bernstein, The New Republic "In these disturbing yet strikingly illuminating pages, the truth of Jewish destiny from long ago vibrates and sings..."-Elie Wiesel "No other writer...has come so close to achieving the wholeness that Lukacs cites as our impossible aim."-Nadine Gordimer "What a marvelous writer! Read him now. You can thank me later."-Michael Dirda, Washington Post Book World "[C]aptures and encapsulates Europe in those uncertain hours before the upheaval of a continent and the annihilation of a civilization."-Cynthia Ozick, author of Quarrel and Quandary "[A] writer well worth adding to the short list of giants such as Thomas Mann, Elie Wiesel, and Primo Levi."-Hadassah Magazine, Sanford Pinsker
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About the Author

Joseph Roth (1894-1939) was the great elegist of the cosmopolitan culture that flourished in the dying days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He published several books and articles before his untimely death at the age of 44. Roth's writing has been admired by J. M. Coetzee, Jeffrey Eugenides, Elie Wiesel, and Nadine Gordimer, among many others. For his translations, acclaimed poet Michael Hofmann has won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, the Dublin International IMPAC Award, the PEN/Book-of-the-Month Club Prize, the Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize, the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize, and The Schlegel-Tieck Prize (four times). He is the highly acclaimed translator of, among others, Kafka, Brecht, and Joseph Roth.


Published in 1927 but never translated into English, Roth's essays speak afresh in this rendering by the translator of four of his novels. Roth describes the experiences of Jews in order to explore solutions to the Jewish question, particularly the struggles regarding anti-Semitism and an allegiance strained between faith and country. Reflecting his travels, Roth creates affectionate portraits of individual Jews living across Europe. Communities in Berlin and Vienna receive emphasis, and there is an entire chapter about the Soviet Union's treatment of Jews. Roth denounces trust in assimilation, nationalism, and Western humanism. Instead, he advocates respect for Eastern Jews, who value spiritual and historical qualities that bind Jews together and supersede politics and culture. While Roth accepts Zionism as a response to anti-Semitism, he views it as only a partial solution. These essays represent a vivid, historically significant view of the Jewish experience, even though Roth often builds his points on sweeping generalizations about groups of people, cities, or even countries. Another related, recently published work is Ritchie Robertson's The Jewish Question in German Literature, 1749-1939: Emancipation and Its Discontents (Oxford Univ., 1999). Recommended for specialized collections and academic and larger public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/00.]ÄMarianne Orme, West Lafayette, IN Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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