From My Bookshelf: Leon Blum’s “Lettres de Buchenwald”

LBlumdocumentaryThanks to my academic background in modern French history, I was delighted when the Generations of the Shoah International (GSI) Book/Film Discussion Group announced its December 2012 guests: Jean Bodon and Antoine Malamoud, who would discuss the documentary Léon Blum: For All Mankind. Bodon directed the film; Malamoud is Blum’s great-grandson.

I was familiar with much of Blum’s story, especially his status as France’s first Jewish premier, most remembered for leading the Popular Front that came to power in 1936. But the fine documentary—which I was able to watch easily through Amazon Prime; you can also find it on Netflix—covers one piece of Blum’s story that I am ashamed to admit I did not recall clearly at all: Blum was arrested by the Vichy government in 1940 and imprisoned in France for nearly three years, after which he was transferred to German custody. In April 1943, he was moved to a detention site just outside the main camp at Buchenwald, where he remained until 1945. When Antoine Malamoud pointed out that letters that Blum wrote from his German detention to his son Robert (Malamoud’s grandfather, who was a French prisoner-of-war in Germany at the time) have been collected and published, as Lettres de Buchenwald, I was intrigued.

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My Year in Jewish Books (2012 edition)

Last year, I found it useful (and kind of fun) to look back on “my year in Jewish books.” So, borrowing some of the same introductory wording, I’m going to attempt to do something similar for 2012.

Reviewing my reading for 2012 (thank you, Goodreads!), I can see that I do not and would not ever limit my reading to “Jewish books” exclusively. (By the way, I define “Jewish books” as books with substantive Jewish content/themes. In my view, non-Jewish authors can write “Jewish books.” And Jewish authors can write books that don’t strike me as particularly Jewish. I read several of those books this year, too.)

But this year, as usual, I did read quite a few books that fall within the “Jewish book” category. And, as an advocate for Jewish literature, I’m proud of that.

Below, you will find these books presented in the order in which I read them. (more…)

Jewish Literary Links for Shabbat

Photo Credit: Reut Miryam Cohen
  • This upcoming (April 17) free session at the New York Public Library may assist your research: “This lecture will describe the wealth of resources available at institutions throughout the New York area for doing Jewish family history research. The talk will be geared to beginners and intermediate researchers, and will focus on those families whose ancestors who came to the U.S. starting with the great migration which began in the late 1880s.”
  • Historian Sarah Maza takes a closer look at Irene Nemirovsky’s Suite Francaise: “Némirovsky’s vivid fiction-in-real-time – not to mention the author’s life story – has a great deal to offer to undergraduates studying the period, although some caveats apply.”
  • Two weeks from Sunday I’ll be speaking at NYC’s City Congregation for Humanistic Judaism. My topic: “MY GERMAN-JEWISH GRANDPARENTS AND THIRD-GENERATION PREOCCUPATIONS: History, Healing, and Happily Ever After?”
  • “The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation is calling artists to submit works inspired by the deeds of Raoul Wallenberg and their legacy. Selected works will be published in an e-book compilation created in commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of Raoul Wallenberg’s birthday. This call is open for artists working within the fields of creative writing, drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography and mixed media. The application deadline is Monday, May 16, 2012.” No application fee; payment info not indicated.
  • Inspired by Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman, Rabbi Karen Perolman shares some initial titles that she considers to be “great Jewish books.”
  • Tablet situates Etgar Keret’s latest story collection in the history of Israeli literature–and the history of Keret’s.
  • Shabbat shalom!

    Jewish Literary Links for Shabbat

    Photo Credit: Reut Miryam Cohen
  • Among the books on my tbr list is a review copy of the New American Haggadah, whose novelist creators attracted the attention of The New York Times last weekend. (For more about the new Haggadah, see Jeffrey Goldberg, who makes an important guest appearance in the NYT article. Or check out Amy Meltzer’s Homeshuling post, where you can also enter a giveaway and perhaps win a copy of the New American Haggadah for yourself.)
  • The Patagonian Hare, an English version of Claude Lanzmann’s memoir, translated by Frank Wynne, is out this week. Carlin Romano writes about it.
  • In the new Atlantic, Joseph O’Neill writes about Philip Roth and “The American Trilogy.”
  • From Israel, Judy Labensohn shares “The Writing Workshopper’s Prayer.”
  • There’s a new book club in town.
  • Shabbat shalom!

    Jewish Literary Links for Shabbat

  • André Aciman writes about Irène Némirovsky.
  • Joan Leegant’s remarkable, Israel-set short story, “Beautiful Souls,” was chosen by Ron Carlson as winner of the 2011 Colorado Review Nelligan Prize. It is extraordinary, as is Leegant’s novel, Wherever You Go, which I finished reading on New Year’s Day. Hope to write more about Leegant’s work soon.
  • The New York Times reviews the Museum of Jewish Heritage’s Emma Lazarus exhibit.
  • More cultural news from NYC: Next week marks the start of the 21st annual New York Jewish Film Festival.
  • Looking for some book-club possibilities? Check out the Jewish Book Council’s themed reading lists.
  • Can you believe that it’s been almost one whole year since my short-story collection, Quiet Americans, was published? To celebrate this anniversary, I’m offering three free copies of my book. There’s no cost to enter this giveaway and the guidelines couldn’t be simpler. Read more here.
  • Shabbat shalom!

    Jewish Literary Links for Shabbat

  • I wasn’t able to make it to Amos Oz’s appearance at the 92nd Street Y this week, but while he was in town, Oz recorded this broadcast with Brian Lehrer, and I hope to get to that very soon!
  • Another big prize for Charles Foran’s biography of Mordecai Richler.
  • More about Irène Némirovsky.
  • Némirovsky gets a mention in Trina Robbins’s post for the Jewish Book Council, too. Robbins is the author of Lily Renée: Escape Artist, “a comic by a Jewish woman about a Jewish woman who drew comics.” (Lily Renée was also part of the history of the Kindertransport trains.)
  • The second part of “A Jewish Writer in America,” excerpted from a talk that Saul Bellow gave in 1984, is now online.
  • The praise keeps coming for short-story writer Edith Pearlman.
  • Shabbat shalom!