In advance of the 68th Annual National Jewish Book Awards ceremony on March 5th, 2019 (which you can buy tickets for here), Jewish Book Council is sharing short interviews with the winners in each category.
Ariel Burger’s Witness: Lessons from Elie Wiesel’s Classroom is the winner of the 2018 National Jewish Book Award for Biography. Elie Wiesel was mentor, trusted friend and advisor to author Ariel Burger for nearly twenty-five years. This remarkable book gives readers a front row seat in Wiesel’s classroom at Boston University, and allows us to benefit from his distinct teaching style. Burger honors Wiesel by striving to perpetuate and teach his mentor’s “methodology of wonder.”
Which three Jewish writers, dead or alive, would you most like to have dinner with?
The great medieval mystic and legalist Nachmanides; the historian Shimon Dubnov, murdered by his own student, a Nazi; and Leonard Cohen, who, in addition to a being a great songwriter, was a great writer and thinker.
What’s your favorite book that no one else has heard of?
The Fifth Head of Cerberus by Gene Wolfe, a strange meditation on identity, memory, and narrative in three parts. (I hope I’m mistaken and people have heard of this.)
Which Jewish writers working today do you admire most?
Rachel Kadish, Tova Mirvis, Shulem Deen, Yossi Klein HaLevi, and Dara Horn.
What are you reading right now?
The Divine Invasion by Philip K. Dick.
What are your greatest creative influences (other than books)?
Elie Wiesel — his writing but also his teacher and presence as a person. My composer father, Rebbe Nachman’s Tales, Ursula le Guin, Palker Palmer, Borges’s nonfiction, Chris Claremont, Kate Bush, Lewis Hyde, Thomas Merton, the songwriter Jason Molina, Maurice Sendak, Regina Spektor, and Jewish history.