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Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books Paperback – September 2, 2005
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Top Customer Reviews
Even for those who are already familiar with and excited by Mr. Lansky's project, which after all has received a fair amount of publicity over the years, I still highly recommend this book to fill in the details and bring you even greater appreciation of his efforts. And for those who know nothing about it, and even for those who could care less what has been achieved, it is still a book worth reading, simply as a testament to the immense power of an ordinary person's single-minded passion, dogged persistence and sheer hard work, when it is lived out year after year after year. It's incredibly inspiring to see the magnitude of what this young man and his friends achieved against all odds, and it decisively slams the door on that strength-sapping thought, "But what good can the efforts of one person do?" So read! Enjoy!
But if, like me, you don't know any Yiddish other than schmaltz and oy ve, and you aren't even Jewish, you can still enjoy Lansky's tale of saving hundreds of thousands of books and helping to preserve the history of what may be a dying language.
As a college student, Lansky started salvaging Yiddish books that were being discarded. As word got around that someone was willing to shlep old books away, he became inundated with people cleaning out their libraries and libraries who couldn't use the books any longer. Lansky nudged a couple of friends to help him and it turned into a full time job, taking his unreliable pickup truck all over the East Coast and beyond to pick up cartons of books at all hours.
Often when Lansky and his helpers arrived, there was a smorgasbord of food waiting for them and the person giving away the books usually had some tales to tell about how they acquired the books, or about what it was like to be Jewish immigrants in New York sixty or seventy years ago. In exchange for the books, Lansky and his friends got an education in a fascinating slice of American twentieth century history.
After some twenty-five years of book salvaging, Lansky has a million and a half volumes stored in his National Yiddish Book Center. Although Yiddish is no longer the first language of many, thanks in part to Lansky, many people are rediscovering its literature and culture.
To summarize, Aaron Lansky as a young student decides to help save a vanishing literature by collecting as many Yiddish books as he can. He then uses his vast enthusiasm, knowledge and energy to accomplish his most worthy goal. Scouring the country, he meets many elderly people with old books. But he mostly tells their stories which he learns in kitchens over ethnic food - every book comes with a story and some `nosh'. These people all have had compelling, human, tragic, funny and enchanting lives. And the Yiddish literature also comes through in his prose. He covers the general history of Yiddish language and literature in a very un-painful and fascinating way. Yiddish was regarded by intelligentsia as `common' and so the literature was not prized the way authentic Hebrew texts were; in addition Yiddish was a product of the Diaspora and symbolic of subjugation and ancient deprivations. Thus in the later 20th century, most of these books were lightly regarded and often discarded. When Mr. Lansky began his quest these vibrant other-worldly books were in danger of being lost. Although most modern readers only know of Nobel prize winner Isaac Bashevis Singer, there were equally talented authors in all fields of literature who wrote in this lost language of a lost world.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
While "Amazing Adventures" seems to overstate the case, this was a fascinating work about how one man, with some help, pretty much saved Yiddish books from extinction. Read morePublished 6 months ago by RuthSophia
An incredible history of the Yiddish language and what has happened over the decades. I purchased several copies for friends/family.Published 6 months ago by Nancy F. Sharpe
Aaron Lansky's adventures have, indeed, been amazing. And his perseverance has been great. He has accomplished something of lasting cultural/historical significance. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Librum
If you love the world of the Jewish immigrants, you'll love this book. It is inspiring to know that a few committed people could save an entire literature.Published 10 months ago by lisa e steinberg
I loved this book! What a story! What fabulous dedicated wonderful people!Published 10 months ago by marallyn
Fascinating true story. I applaud him for the efforts that he made as he has helped historyPublished 11 months ago by Carol Brown
An amazing story of a young man on a mission of saving Yiddish and Yiddish literature!Published 11 months ago by Haya Gartner
There's nothing much I can add to what others have said except that this is one of my all time favorite books for a number of reasons. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Ers Consulting