Despite a certain fuzziness in its conclusions, a powerful collection of personal testimonies.

SUDDENLY JEWISH

JEWS RAISESD AS GENTILES DISCOVER THEIR JEWISH ROOTS

In the latest entry in the excellent Brandeis Series in American Jewish History, Culture and Life, Kessel (Director of Administration/Board of Jewish Education) talks to over 160 men and women who uncovered a family secret of identity-shaking proportions.

In recent years, the stories of children hidden during the Holocaust and families that submerged their Judaism under a welter of subterfuges have become as common as self-help books (albeit considerably more interesting reading). Kessel attempts to find some larger perspective on this phenomenon by surveying the experiences of a large sampling of adults who discovered at some point that their ostensibly non-Jewish families were, in fact, Jewish. For some, this revelation came as a shattering blow to their self-image and identity; for others, it served to confirm suspicions long held in private, allowing them fully to embrace a world to which they had always been drawn. Kessel divides her subjects into three groups: the all-too-familiar categories of hidden children of Holocaust survivors, Jewish children who were adopted by non-Jews, and the crypto-Jews who descended from the victims of the Inquisition and forcible conversion. Although the chapter on the crypto-Jews is fascinating, this group sticks out from the rest of her narrative uneasily, with a distinct identity and set of problems that seems shoe-horned into this slender volume to fill it out to book length. Much of the story consists of transcripts of Kessel’s interviews, and she is fortunate in her subjects: they are uniformly thoughtful, articulate, and sensitive. So is the author herself, with the result that this is a compelling account to read even when it seems a bit unfocussed in its larger perspectives.

Despite a certain fuzziness in its conclusions, a powerful collection of personal testimonies.

Pub Date: June 2, 2000

ISBN: 1-58465-038-9

Page Count: 188

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2000

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THE MYTH OF SISYPHUS

AND OTHER ESSAYS

This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.

THE BOOK OF GENESIS ILLUSTRATED

The Book of Genesis as imagined by a veteran voice of underground comics.

R. Crumb’s pass at the opening chapters of the Bible isn’t nearly the act of heresy the comic artist’s reputation might suggest. In fact, the creator of Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural is fastidiously respectful. Crumb took pains to preserve every word of Genesis—drawing from numerous source texts, but mainly Robert Alter’s translation, The Five Books of Moses (2004)—and he clearly did his homework on the clothing, shelter and landscapes that surrounded Noah, Abraham and Isaac. This dedication to faithful representation makes the book, as Crumb writes in his introduction, a “straight illustration job, with no intention to ridicule or make visual jokes.” But his efforts are in their own way irreverent, and Crumb feels no particular need to deify even the most divine characters. God Himself is not much taller than Adam and Eve, and instead of omnisciently imparting orders and judgment He stands beside them in Eden, speaking to them directly. Jacob wrestles not with an angel, as is so often depicted in paintings, but with a man who looks not much different from himself. The women are uniformly Crumbian, voluptuous Earth goddesses who are both sexualized and strong-willed. (The endnotes offer a close study of the kinds of power women wielded in Genesis.) The downside of fitting all the text in is that many pages are packed tight with small panels, and too rarely—as with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah—does Crumb expand his lens and treat signature events dramatically. Even the Flood is fairly restrained, though the exodus of the animals from the Ark is beautifully detailed. The author’s respect for Genesis is admirable, but it may leave readers wishing he had taken a few more chances with his interpretation, as when he draws the serpent in the Garden of Eden as a provocative half-man/half-lizard. On the whole, though, the book is largely a tribute to Crumb’s immense talents as a draftsman and stubborn adherence to the script.

An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-393-06102-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2009

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