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Outwitting Historyby Aaron Lansky
Synopses & Reviews
As a twenty-three-year-old graduate student, Aaron Lanskey set out to save the world's abandoned Yiddish books before it was too late. Today, twenty-five years and one and a half million books later, he has accomplished what has been called "the greatest cultural rescue effort in Jewish history." In Outwitting History, Lansky shares his adventures as well as the poignant and often laugh-out-loud stories he heard as he traveled the country collecting books. Introducing us to a dazzling array of writers, he shows us how an almost-lost culture is the bridge between the old world and the future—and how the written word can unite everyone who believes in the power of great literature.
In 1980 an entire body of Jewish literature--the physical remnant of Yiddish culture--was on the verge of extinction. Precious volumes that had survived Hitler and Stalin were being passed down from older generations of Jewish immigrants to their non-Yiddish-speaking children only to be discarded or destroyed. So Aaron Lansky, just twenty-three, issued a worldwide appeal for unwanted Yiddish works.
Lansky's passion led him to travel from house to house collecting the books--and the stories of these Jewish refugees and the vibrant intellectual world they inhabited. He and a team of volunteers salvaged books from dusty attics, crumbling basements, demolition sites, and dumpsters. When they began, scholars thought that fewer than seventy thousand Yiddish books existed. So far 1.5 million volumes have been saved!
Filled with tender and sometimes hilarious stories, this is an inspirational account of a man who had a vision and made a difference. It is a collective love song to the brilliant Yiddish writers--from Mendele to Sholem Aleichem to I. B. Singer--whose lasting cultural relevance is evident on every page.
The man who spearheaded what has been called "the greatest cultural rescue effort in Jewish history" recounts his poignant, intrepid, and often riotous quest to safeguard a vanishing civilization.
In 1980, a twenty-three-year-old student named Aaron Lansky set out to rescue the world’s abandoned Yiddish books before it was too late. Twenty-five years and one and a half million books later, he’s still in the midst of a great adventure. Filled with poignant and often laugh-out-loud tales from Lansky’s travels across the country as he collected books from older Jewish immigrants—books their own children had no use for—Outwitting History also explores brilliant Yiddish writers and enables us to see how an almost-lost culture is the bridge between the Old World and the future.
About the Author
“genius” fellowship, Lansky has helped fuel a renaissance of Jewish literature in this country. He lives with his family in western Massachusetts.
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