Joshua Cohen is the author of Witz, The Heaven of Others, The Quorum, Cadenza for the Schneidermann Violin Concerto, among other titles.
The Last Jew
Perhaps the greatest writer to fable himself out of Israel and onto the international scene since the tragic early death of the genius Yaakov Shabtai, Yoram Kaniuk (born 1930) shares with his fellow Tel Avivan a seemingly manic obsession with turning small lives into representative ones, and transcending the Israeli political landscape to focus instead on themes universally Jewish. Emerging from the concentration camps in 1945, one Ebenezer Schneerson is unable to remember anything about himself personally, but finds he is able to recite at will, say, the entire canon of Yiddish poetry. As fellow survivor Samuel Lipker discovers, Ebenezer has become a walking and talking repository of lost Yiddishkeit and Jewish Kultur; he has become, in essence if not historical fact, the Last Jew, and as such is exploited by Lipker in a sideshow act touring throughout recovering Europe. Yoram Kaniuk is himself the Last Jew of Israeli letters — in that his European pedigree is never far from the surface of his prose, and his themes have never fashionably politicked against fantasy. The Last Jew is his masterpiece, a book for the ages.
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