A thoughtful, well-written memorial to an important but overlooked figure in modern Jewish letters—and a real treat for...

THE PATRON

A LIFE OF SALMAN SCHOCKEN, 1877-1959

A well-rendered life of the philanthropist, activist, autodidact, and publisher who acted as an important gatekeeper and advocate of European Jewish culture through much of the last century.

Now an “infrequent footnote in scholarly monographs dealing with the history of German Jews,” as David (Gershom Scholem: A Life in Letters, not reviewed) puts it, Salman Schocken (1877–1959) was a barely educated Ostjuden, or Eastern Jew, from Poland who made his way westward, fell under the spell of Nietzsche and other German writers and thinkers, and evolved into a “mystical merchant” (the phrase is Gershom Scholem’s) who built a small empire of department stores and other businesses while reading just about every book ever written. This was just the sort of career trajectory that some German Jews—and, of course, many Germans—feared, and Schocken battled plenty of resentments and prejudices as he earned his fortune, all of which may have helped push him into the Zionist camp early on. Schocken—who altered his name to the modern, businesslike “S. Schocken Jr.” about the time he established himself in Berlin—had a mistrust for organized politics and society, but he became a stalwart of Zionist culture-building. Working with the likes of Scholem, Martin Buber, S.Y. Agnon, Max Brod (and through him Franz Kafka), and other writers, Schocken became a publisher and patron; in him, in David’s words, “the Jewish renaissance found its Medici.” A bibliophile who considered his 30,000-volume library to be his autobiography, Schocken was forced out of Germany after Hitler’s rise to power, though he managed to move much of his inventory to Palestine after hard bargaining with the Nazi authorities. A modern nomad, he wandered between Jerusalem and New York (where he founded the publishing company that bears his name today), adding Switzerland, Italy, and other European ports of call after the war, and contributing to that renaissance for the rest of his life, as his descendants continue to do today.

A thoughtful, well-written memorial to an important but overlooked figure in modern Jewish letters—and a real treat for bibliophiles.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-8050-6630-6

Page Count: 450

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2003

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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