This is a remarkable historical novel by the Polish-born Israeli historian Zvi Ankori. It is his fictionalized memoir enhanced by extensive research in archives and libraries on three continents. Born Hesiek Wróbel in 1920, Ankori taught Jewish history at Ohio State University, Columbia, the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv University. The book provides a broad and detailed perspective on Jewish life in pre-1939 Poland as well as in Mandatory Palestine and the first decades of the State of Israel. Ankori was a close neighbor and friend of the great Hebrew author Shmuel Agnon, who is wonderfully portrayed in this book.
This is the second autobiographical historical novel by Ankori; his first was Chestnuts of Yesteryear (Gefen, 2003). Authored in Hebrew, the present novel has been translated into often lyrical English. The fictional form liberates the author to portray conversations, emotions, and thoughts that could not be satisfactorily documented in a formal historical monograph. A major theme is a lifelong romance with books that opened up a broader world to a child born and raised in a provincial city whose large Jewish community of Hasidim, Talmudists, merchants, socialists, craftsmen, and secularists vanished after 1939. Photographs.