The ProsenPeople

Jewish Writer

Friday, June 24, 2011 | Permalink

Earlier this week, David Albahari wrote about the madness of one-paragraph novels and the author’s voice. He has been blogging all week for the Visiting Scribe all week.

Being a Jewish writer is no different from being any other kind of writer. I don’t believe that Jewish writers have any special mission, or that they see the world in a different way, which would give them any advantage over other writers. Only one thing matters when you are a writer: the way you use your language and what you do with it. It does not matter whether you are religious or secular, formally educated or uneducated, involved in tradition or having nothing to do with it – the only thing that matters is your ability to tell stories or sing songs in a way that has not been done before.

So how do we define a Jewish writer? This question is sometimes very important for Jewish writers who live in small secular Jewish communities in the Diaspora, like the one in Serbia where I come from. For me, a Jewish writer is a writer of Jewish origin who writes mainly on Jewish themes.

It can be argued that when a national literature is defined we never base our definition on the themes of literary works. This is true but it is because we have other criteria such as language and territory. We could introduce language into our definition of the Jewish writer, and there would obviously be at least three: HebrewYiddish and Ladino, but then we would lose a large number of Jewish writers writing in non-Jewish languages, writers such as Joseph RothSaul BellowBernard Malamud, or Danilo Kis. And finally, it is impossible to include any specific territory in our definition as Jewish writers live all over the world.

The unique history of the Jewish people has contributed to the unique position of Jewish literature. Serbian Jewish literature is both part of a national literature – because of the fact that Serbian Jewish writers write in Serbian – and part of multilingual worldwide Jewish literature. This means that it would be seen as one of a number of ethnic literatures that belong to Serbian literature in general. In other words, worldwide Jewish literature consists of a large number of ethnic Jewish literatures just as the world Jewish community consists of many different Jewish communities. It is diversity that makes us – both as a people and as writers – what we truly are.

David Albahari is the author of the new novel Leeches. 

Book Giveaway

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Dani Crickman


We’re giving away copies of The Eichmann Trial by Deborah Lipstadt for our upcoming Twitter Book Club!

Want to win? Tweet out a link to your favorite JBC blog post. Include@JewishBook so we’ll be sure to see it.

All tweets before 12pm (Eastern) tomorrow will get your name in the drawing. We’ll announce the winners tomorrow afternoon.

Best of luck!

Journey Through Jewish BookLand

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Alyssa Berlin

The smell of old books filled the office today as I went through old volumes of the Jewish Book Annual (actually it happened to smell a lot like this too). As I sat down to categorize all the volumes I stumbled upon the first editions published way back in 1942! As any normal book enthusiast would do, I got distracted by the history and began to leaf through each book, finding essays in Hebrew, English and Yiddish, as well as pictures that date back from 1942-1999.

I thought I’d share some of the great pictures and book covers that have filled the Jewish Book Annual since it’s inception. Enjoy!


 


The first page of Volume 1- explaining the Jewish Book Annual's purpose and significance




Additional pages and issues

      



The Voice

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 | Permalink

On Monday, David Albahari explained the motive behind the madness of one-paragraph novels. He will be blogging all week for the Visiting Scribe.

I think it was Saul Bellow who once said that writers do not have tasks or duties – they only have their inspiration and that’s the only voice they should listen to. We can discuss where that voice is coming from – from our mind or our heart or that mysterious entity called the human soul – but we cannot change the fact that writers are the scribes who try to write down everything the voice of inspiration tells them. So writers do not write in order to say something to somebody; they write in order to hear and write down what that voice has to tell us. I am not trying to say that writing is an altogether mysterious, secret thing but some part of writing definitely is. The other part, written because we were told to write it, definitely is not. Most of it should be classified as propaganda – promotion of different literary, ideological, political, psychological, cultural ideas. There have always been writers who openly believed in a political system or a party, and in many cases readers and other writers have refused to deal with them. I am not saying that writers should not get involved in a political struggle but they should do it not as writers but as human beings. Unfortunately, once they are seen as human beings many writers turn out to be not very interesting creatures. In fact, they become like everybody else. Only a very small number of writers are really outstanding beings who truly understand the beauty and horror of our world.

David Albahari is the author of the new novel Leeches. 

Book Cover of the Week: The Frozen Rabbi

Tuesday, June 21, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

The paperback edition of The Frozen Rabbi (Steve Stern) is now available from Algonquin Books:


The Greatest Yiddish Literature Party Ever

Monday, June 20, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Yep, that’s right…the GREATEST Yiddish Literature Party EVER…brought to you by your friends at the Jewish Book CouncilVol. 1 Brooklyn, and Jewcy in honor of the new film Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness by Joseph Dorman. Join us on July 6th from 7:30PM to 10:30PM at (le) poisson rouge for readings by:

There will be (Yiddish!) drink specials (TBA) and the event is free to the public.  
Stay tuned to find out how you can win a free copy of Sholem Aleichem’s Tevye the Dairyman and Motl the Cantor’s Son.

Some helpful links:

  • Coming? Let us know on Facebook.
  • More on the film can be found here.
  • Want to check out the film? It will be shown at Lincoln Plaza Cinema starting July 8th with screenings daily through July 14th.

Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness - Trailer from Riverside Films on Vimeo.

““Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness” is an invigorating and fascinating biographical documentary that should be required viewing for anyone with a love for the written word.” 

-Phil Hall, Film Threat

One-Paragraph Novels

Monday, June 20, 2011 | Permalink

David Albahari is the Serbian-born Canadian author, most recently, of the novel Leeches. The book is a feat of magic, an existential philosophical novel that’s also funny and with enough mysteries to keep the reader guessing. It’s also one long paragraph — that’s right, a 300-page-long paragraph.  Here, Mr. Albahari explains the motive behind his madness.

There are several reasons why I write my novels in one long paragraph. First of all, I simply like it, I like when black words completely cover the whiteness of paper. Secondly, I feel that when I write in a long paragraph, I am paying hommage to the writers who influenced me with their own long sentences and paragraphs – William Faulkner, Thomas Wolfe, Franz Kafka, Samuel Beckett, Thomas Bernhard. And finally, I write like that because I believe that a story or a novel is created in the joint effort between the writer and the reader through the act of reading. The long paragraph is like a dark labyrinth through which they have to find their way. Unfortunately, many readers would rather read books written in short sentences than a novel or a collection of short stories trying to explore new possibilities in the world of fiction. Perhaps they have had enough of postmodern and metafictional literature and believe they deserve a break? That might be why many of them recoil when they are faced with a novel written in a three-hundred-page-long paragraph, convinced that it is more difficult to read than a regular novel. That presumption is wrong because a one-paragraph novel also has its dialogues, descriptions, new paragraphs, and even new chapters. True, they are not so marked but any attentive reader will recognize them in the process of reading. Reading should always be fun, I agree, but it should also be for learning and understanding.

David Albahari is the author of the new novel Leeches. He will be blogging all week for the Visiting Scribe.

JBC Bookshelf: Summer Hodgepodge

Thursday, June 16, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

It’s been a while since my last “Bookshelf,” but things have finally calmed down (ha!) here with summer, and I’ve had some time to compile our latest edition.  This one is a real hodgepodge…memoir, fiction, visual arts. But, what better time to immerse yourself in various topics than summer? Are these beach reads? Uhm…some may be…but not really. That edition will come soon. In the meantime…

And This is the Light, Lea Goldberg; Barbara Harshav, trans.; Nili Scharf Gold, intro. (September 2011, The Toby Press)
Also check out With This Night, Lea(h) Goldberg’s final collection published in her lifetime…now for this first time in English. This one was published in June by University of Texas Press.

Smuggled: A Novel, Christina Shea (July 2011, Black Cat)
This is a good book club read…check out the reading guide from the publisher here.

The Synagogues of Britain and Ireland: An Architectural and Social History (The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art), Sharman Kadish (May 2011, Yale University Press)
This one is a real beauty and includes 200 images (120 b&w, 80 color).

Collecting Matisse and Modern Masters: The Cone Sisters of Baltimore (Jewish Museum), Karen Levitov (May 2011, Yale University Press)
Published in conjunction with the exhibit at The Jewish Museum in NYC.

Abraham Joshua Heschel: Essential Writings  Susannah Heschel (May 2011, Orbis Books)
Selections from the writings of one of the leading Jewish theologians and philosophers of the 20th century, edited by his daughter.

Lunar Savings Time, Aleck Epstein; Becka Mara McKay, trans. (May 2011, Clockroot Books)
Read an excerpt here.

      

     

Adventures in Fatherland

Thursday, June 16, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Check out The Forward‘s tribute to Father’s Day, featuring short pieces by Dan Friedman, Gal Beckerman, and Larry Cohler-Esses...continue reading here.

The Eichmann Trial – Wednesday, July 20th

Thursday, June 16, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Dani Crickman

Announcing our first ever non-fiction Twitter Book Club read:
The Eichmann Trial by Deborah Lipstadt!

Join us to discuss the book with Deborah on Wednesday, July 20th, 12:30-1:10 (Eastern).

Follow @JewishBook  and keep an eye on #JBCBooks for updates and to WIN A FREE COPY of the book.

The capture of SS Lieutenant Colonel Adolf Eichmann by Israeli agents in Argentina in May of 1960 and his subsequent trial in Tel Aviv by an Israeli court electrified the world. The public debate it sparked on where, how, and by whom Nazi war criminals should be brought to justice, and the international media coverage of the trial itself, is recognized as a watershed moment in how the civilized world in general and Holocaust survivors in particular found the means to deal with the legacy of genocide on a scale that had never been seen before. In The Eichmann Trial, award- winning historian Deborah Lipstadt gives us an overview of the trial and analyzes the dramatic effect that the testimony of survivors in a court of law— which was itself not without controversy— had on a world that had until then regularly commemorated the Holocaust but never fully understood the millions who died and the hundreds of thousands who managed to survive. As the world continues to confront the ongoing reality of genocide and ponder the fate of those who survive it, this “trial of the century” offers a legal, moral, and political framework for coming to terms with unfathomable evil and with those who perpetrate it. In The Eichmann Trial, Lipstadt infuses a gripping narrative with historical perspective and contemporary urgency…

Check out the reader’s guide and additional resources on the Nextbook website.

The How-To, In Case You’re New:

What is a Twitter Book Club?
A twitter book club provides the opportunity for twitter users to engage in real time conversation about a particular, predetermined book. JBC’s book club aims to provide readers with an opportunity to discuss Jewish interest titles with other interested readers electronically.

To participate…

If you aren’t already a Twitter user, please join twitter here. (Confused about Twitter all together? Visit the twitter twitorial. Follow the Jewish Book Council (@jewishbook). During the designated time and date of the book club follow the conversation by searching for #JBCBooks. If you would like to actively participate, please include #JBCBooks at the end of any comments or questions you wish to contribute.

(Note: New twitter users may have to wait up to a week before their tweets get saved in hashtag searches. Open a twitter account at least a week and a half before this discussion in order to join us!)

We hope you’ll join and enjoy the conversation! If you have something to say or a question to ask, feel free to jump in, and don’t forget to include #JBCBooks at the end of any tweet so that other participants can engage with you.