An accessible, neatly narrated story of hallowed detritus and the resurrection of nearly 1,000 years of culture and learning.

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SACRED TRASH

THE LOST AND FOUND WORLD OF THE CAIRO GENIZA

Poet and essayist Hoffman (My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness: A Poet’s Life in the Palestinian Century, 2009, etc.) and poet and translator Cole (Things On Which I’ve Stumbled, 2008, etc.) chronicle the disinterment of an ancient stash of Hebrew scholarship.

This absorbing academic detective story begins in Cambridge in 1896, when renowned Hebraist Solomon Schecter encountered twin sisters who told him about a synagogue in Old Cairo that contained vast gathering of documents which had been given proper entombment centuries earlier. The scholar promptly traveled to the cache—the “Geniza”—at the ancient Ben Ezra Synagogue where he found a huge, musty treasure of hitherto unknown Judaica. The material, pungent with the age of the earliest days of the second millennium, was written on paper and vellum in a variety of languages, though all used Hebrew orthography. Everyday letters and business correspondence formed a new portrait of the lives of medieval Jews. Most spectacular, especially in the case of a people who put much of their achievements and teaching in writing, was the recovery of liturgical poetry and wisdom from the Golden Age of Jewish Literature in Muslim Iberia. Hoffman and Cole are adroit in their exegesis of the writings of figures like Ben Sira and poet and philosopher Judah Halevi, and the authors pay appropriate tribute to the devoted scholars who arduously sifted through the dust of centuries. The Cairo Geniza has produced an important branch of scholarly discipline that continues today.

An accessible, neatly narrated story of hallowed detritus and the resurrection of nearly 1,000 years of culture and learning.

Pub Date: April 5, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8052-4258-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Schocken

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2011

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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