From School Library Journal
In this short, poignant, and thoroughly engaging memoir, Amherst professor and Latin American literary studies scholar Stavans takes us on his own personal journey to understand the reemergence of Hebrew as a vital and necessary step in his own intellectual and emotional development, as well as an important milestone in the origins of the modern state of Israel. His journey is also a quest to understand better the secularist Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, who at the end of the 19th century sought to revive Hebrew, engaging in a "linguistic resurrection." Stavans's intellectual journey parallels his search for concrete traces of Ben-Yehuda in Israel, ending with a visit to his gravestone. This personal memoir is supplemented with an informative acknowledgments section that will enable readers to find the sources for Stavans's immense knowledge of Ben-Yehuda's life and the history and development of Hebrew, Zionism, and the interrelationships with other languages and cultures. While an index of terms and names would have been helpful, the abbreviated chronology is a welcome addition. Recommended.—Herbert E. Shapiro, Empire State Coll. of the State Univ. of New York, Rochester
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This is the eleventh book in the Jewish Encounters series, and 18 more are forthcoming. Stavans, a Mexican Jew, posits that he needed to gain some perspective on the development of Hebrew as an ancient language. His book is both a history of the language and of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, who worked to revive the language at the end of the nineteenth century. Stavans reveals that he realized his search for Hebrew was for something more multifarious than a language. “It was an existential condition, a way of being, of establishing contact, with others, with God, and with myself.” His book is both personal journey and a biography of Ben-Yehuda. --George Cohen