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Yiddish Civilisation: The Rise and Fall of a Forgotten Nationby Paul Kriwaczek
Synopses & Reviews
From the author of In Search of Zarathustra— an illuminating chronicle of Yiddish civilization from its roots in the Diaspora to the present.
Paul Kriwaczek begins his search when Jewish culture first spreads to Europe during the Roman Empire after the end of ancient Jerusalem and the destruction of its Temple at the hands of the Romans in the year 70. We see the burgeoning exile population disperse, moving outward and northward throughout the following centuries, making their mark in more far flung cities under Roman rule. We see these communities settle and coalesce until in 1264 the Statute of Kalisz lays down a general charter of Jewish Liberties, establishing the legal foundation of a separate, self-governing Yiddish world. It is now the treks that begin from the Rhineland and Bavaria to Western Russia and the Ukraine. By its late-medieval heyday, this economically successful, intellectually adventurous, and largely self-ruling Yiddish society stretches from the Baltic to the Black Sea.
Providing a rich portrait of Yiddish civilization, Kriwaczek reflects upon the development of Yiddish language, occupations, social life, art, music, and literature, and introduces us to notable diplomats, artists, and thinkers: from the “Court Jews” of 17th- century Europe to Glikl of Hamelins, who wrote the first great Yiddish autobiography, to Moses Mendelssohn, the 18th-century philosopher and musician, to the great writers of the late 19th and 20th centuries, Sholem Aleichem and I.B. Singer among them. He chronicles the slow decline of Yiddish culture in Europe and Russia, beginning in the 17th century with the Chmielnicki Massacres in the Ukraine and culminating in the Holocaust, but looks further to fresh offshoots in the New World.
Combining intimate family anecdote, travelogue, historical research, and interviews with scholars, Kriwaczek retraces the history of this nearly extinguished civilization to give us a celebration of what remains of Yiddish culture in our own time.
Paul Kriwaczek begins this illuminating and immensely pleasurable chronicle of Yiddish civilization during the Roman empire, when Jewish culture first spread to Europe. We see the burgeoning exile populationdisperse, as its notable diplomats, artists and thinkers make their mark in far-flung cities and found a self-governing Yiddish world. By its late-medieval heyday, this economically successful, intellectually adventurous, and self-aware society stretched from the Baltic to the Black Sea. Kriwaczek traces, too, the slow decline of Yiddish culture in Europe and Russia, and highlights fresh offshoots in the New World.Combining familyanecdote, travelogue, original research, and a keen understanding of Yiddish art and literature, Kriwaczek gives us an exceptional portrait of a culture which, though nearly extinguished, has an influential radiancestill.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Describes the origins and evolution of Yiddish culture from the thirteenth century to the present, including the development of Yiddish language, social life, art, literature, music, and occupations.
About the Author
Paul Kriwaczek was born in Vienna in 1937 and, with his parents, narrowly escaped the Nazis in 1939, fleeing first to Switzerland and then to England. He grew up in London and graduated from London Hospital Medical College. After several years spent working and traveling in the Middle East, Central Asia, and Africa, he joined the BBC, where he spent the next quarter of a century as a program producer and filmmaker. Since leaving television in the 1990s, he has devoted himself to writing full-time, catching up on the unfinished business of a life spent exploring places, times, and ideas. He is married and lives in London.
Paul Kriwaczek’s In Search of Zarathustra is available in Vintage paperback.
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