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Burnt Books: Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav and Franz Kafka (Jewish Encounters Series) Hardcover – October 19, 2010
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“The lives, works, and achievements of Franz Kafka of Prague and the far-less-well-known nineteenth-century Jewish mystic Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav would seem at first glance to have nothing in common. It is only the first of the many virtues of this engrossing and wonderful book by Rodger Kamenetz, a highly experienced and masterful writer on Jewish mysticism, that the truly eerie parallels between their lives, drives, and visions become clear.”
—The Washington Times
“Kamenetz’s dramatic and revelatory double portrait is built on a solid foundation of elegantly explicated Jewish thought and deepened by the story of his journey to Ukraine to visit Rabbi Nachman’s grate. Here is a whole new slant on Kafka, a unique and affecting portrait of a creative holy man, and a radiant inquiry in celebration of how both sacred texts and great literature are open to ‘infinite interpretation.’ ”
“Two yearning souls face each other and touch in this remarkable encounter, both deeply imagined and fastidiously researched. And when, forever questing, Rodger Kamenetz adds his own journey to the mix, what he gives us is so fascinating I read it hungrily. Kamenetz makes a case for the kinship of these brother storytellers that is more than irresistible: it feels inevitable.”
—Rosellen Brown, author of Civil Wars
Praise for The Jew in the Lotus
"A book for anyone who feels the narrowness of a wholly secular life or who wonders about the fate of esoteric spiritual traditions in a world that seems bent on destroying or vulgarzing them. It is a narrative about an extraordinary moment in history, of course, but it is also the chronicle of Rodger Kamenetz's discovery of what he says is a more nourishing Judaism."
—The New York Times Book Review
"Splendidly written from beginning to end, this is a book that might and should be read for the simple pleasure of watching an honest intellect confront its own image . . . A book that should be read and discussed by those interested in the marvelous complexity and resilience of the human soul."
—New Orleans Times-Picayune
More About the Author
Kamenetz's six books of poetry include To Die Next To You and The Lowercase Jew. He has been called "the most formidable of the Jewish-American poets." His memoir, Terra Infirma was described as "one of the most beautiful books ever written about a mother and a son."
When The History of Last Night's Dream appeared in 2007, Oprah Winfrey interviewed him on her "Soul Series" program, saying, "What's so exciting about this book is that it talks about how there's a whole other life that we are living when we sleep and that our dreams are there as offerings and gifts to us if we only recognize what the dreams are there to teach us."
Kamenetz's latest work of non-fiction 2010's Burnt Books, in Schocken/Nextbook's Jewish Encounters series, once again crosses boundaries, between literature and religion. It begins as a dual biography of Franz Kafka and Rebbe Nachman, who each asked his best friend to burn his books. It ends with Kamenetz on his own pilgrimage to Kafka's Prague and to the rebbe's grave in Ukraine.
Born in Baltimore, Rodger Kamenetz has degrees from Yale, Johns Hopkins and Stanford. At Louisiana State University, he held a dual appointment as a Professor of English and Professor of Religious Studies and founded the MFA program in creative writing and the Jewish Studies minor. He retired as LSU Distinguished Professor and Sternberg Honors Chair Professor. He lives in New Orleans where he devotes himself now to his work with clients who seek spiritual direction through dreams.
For more information about Rodger Kamenetz, visit his website at http://kamenetz.com, or meet him on Facebook, or follow him on twitter at
Top Customer Reviews
Kafka has no answers, but an "unending analysis", same as Talmudic, Midrashic, and Mishnaic commentaries. Kafka's "The Trial", for example, embodies the particular techniques of rabbinic hermeneutics. These are dry words.At a personal level, the three levels of soul perceived by the humans, Nefesh (the animal soul), Ruach, the wind towards Nesahama, the spiritual soul, must be visible. Most people relate the word "soul" with Nefesh. If you listen to soul jazz music, you feel the Neshama
I never understood the Kafka's Metamorphosis, until my mother had a stroke trying to get a bottle of milk from the fridge. She became an insect-like and many people started treating her as an insect. "There must a treatment" she said to me. "I can not stay like this, for the rest of my days" It is this treatment that I was unable to find for her than haunts me even today.
Joseph Roth wrote, when in stress, we do not seek the knower, we seek the believer. My mother had a good medical care, but she had no hope, something that those miracle- rabbis . not the doctors, can give us.Read more ›
He is an outstanding writer and succeeded in this book to explain to the reader the secrets
His style of writing is easy to understand,even to a non English reader.
Rodger Kamenet is the best jewish author in modern times.
Kamenetz does a good job plotting these intricate courses, but sometimes gets lost and the narrative get tangled. We go from Kafka to the Rebbe to Kementz's trip to Uman with no apparent sense. There is a great deal of repetition that could have been eliminated, and in the end, the sheer weight of Kafka's and Rebbe Nachman's unbending personalities make us wonder if there really is a connection between these two men worth extended investigation.
With that in mind, Kamenetz has still written a book that raises interesting questions about faith, doubt, and the art of writing. He just takes a while to get us there.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I originally wanted to read it because I was interested in Reb Nachman ... then he turned me on to Kafka. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Lauren Deutsch
Save your money and buy a book worth owning. Burnt Books is just the latest academic trying to cash in on the industry of Kafka. Read morePublished on March 3, 2011 by cja87
Professor Roger Kamenetz tries to show the connections between Rabbi Nachman (1772-1844) and Franz Kafka (1883-1924). Both burnt some of their writings. Read morePublished on December 12, 2010 by Israel Drazin