A mostly compelling chronicle of an oft-overlooked piece of 20th-century European history.



Rehavia, an Israeli neighborhood in the holy city of Jerusalem, is the central focus of this historical survey.

Sparr, publisher at large for German publisher Suhrkamp, tells Rehavia's story by way of its most notable 20th-century inhabitants and visitors. These include well-known figures like Gershom Sholem, Hannah Arendt, and Martin Buber but also lesser-known figures such as Anna Maria Jokl and Mascha Kaléko. “The history of this city district may be told through its geography, architecture, urban planning or chronology,” writes Sparr. “But the decisive thing is the biographies of its inhabitants, who moulded the history of the neighbourhood over decades, just as Rehavia shaped the paths of their lives.” In the years before and after the Shoah and the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Sparr contends that Rehavia (Hebrew for “the vastness of God”) endured not only as a refuge for German-Jewish hybrid culture, but as a site of major spiritual, intellectual, and artistic contributions to world history. While ably translated from the original German by Brown, the prose isn’t likely to win any awards. Sparr’s style is straightforward, and the author sometimes breezes past fascinating moments that could have garnered deeper study. The author’s main strength is his ability to weave the many strands he's gathered into a nuanced braid of history from a variety of perspectives. However, such nuanced history is almost exclusively written by and for the victors; readers looking for insight on contemporary Arab-Israeli issues should look elsewhere. Some may wish that Sparr had endeavored to make more connections between traumas endured by the German-Jewish settlers of Rehavia and the experiences of those mostly Arab civilians who were displaced by their arrival. The author instead focuses on intersectionality within Rehavia, privileging as his subject those Jews of German descent who gave the neighborhood its unique character and offered the world its most brilliant minds.

A mostly compelling chronicle of an oft-overlooked piece of 20th-century European history.

Pub Date: June 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-912208-61-6

Page Count: 220

Publisher: Haus Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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


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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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