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Schlepping Through the Alps: My Search for Austria's Jewish Past with Its Last Wandering Shepherd Paperback – March 28, 2006

4 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Apple is a Jewish comic writer, and in July 2000 he met Hans in New York. Hans, the son of a Jewish father and Gentile mother, was born in Vienna, became a shepherd, and developed a love for singing Yiddish songs. The following year Apple joined Hans in "schlepping" through various Alpine locations, tape recorder and sheep in hand. His account of that sojourn is whimsical, often hilarious, and often deeply disturbing. For Apple was not merely interested in an eccentric shepherd or in local folk culture. He was fully cognizant of the long tradition of Austrian anti-Semitism and of the role of Austrians in the Holocaust. So, while recounting delightful episodes with Hans and his sheep, as well as interesting observations on the lost world of Yiddish culture, Apple suggests that anti-Semitism maintains a tenacious hold in many small towns and villages in rural Austria. A funny book making serious points. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Advance praise for Schlepping Through the Alps

“This marvelously alert, one-of-a-kind book fascinates by virtue of its eccentric honesty, humor, warmth, and intelligence. Sam Apple’s writing style sparkles, and the two brilliantly achieved, richly sympathetic characterizations at the heart of the book–the singing shepherd and the author himself–make for a dazzlingly satisfying read. I absolutely loved it.”
–PHILLIP LOPATE

“At its best, Apple’s narrative voice is as grave as W.G. Sebald’s while as self-deprecating as a poetic version of Woody Allen’s. Europe in the wake of the Holocaust is risky material. I know of no other American of Apple’s generation writing non-fiction who has attempted as subtle and oblique an approach as this.”
–HONOR MOORE, author of The White Blackbird

“In this wonderful book, Sam Apple has written a brilliantly comic and very dark pastorale about shepherds, Nazis and Jews, modern-day Austria, love and fidelity, and he has done it with such subtlety–with bright colors at the center and darkness around all the edges–that the effect is quite singular. I have never read a book quite like this, and I loved it; it’s that simple.”
–CHARLES BAXTER, author of Saul and Patsy: A Novel and Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (March 28, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345477731
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345477736
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,639,870 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I bought this book last night and could not put it down. what an amazing story! i was laughing and crying at the same time. sam is able to approach the subject of anti-semitism and prejudice with a fresh,surprising approach of wit and humor while not minimalizing the intensity of this topic. the tale, set in Austria, has Sam and the Shepherd as an unlikely team exploring the age old question of prejudice while each of them are searching for their own personal truths. sam's "woody alan" attempt at "travel dating" and the shepherd's unorthodox relationship with his wife & girlfriend are interwoven throughout this story and give this heavy subject a modern edge that keeps the reader wanting more. very informative and poignant yet a fun and easy read.
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Format: Hardcover
I started reading this at the bookstore and then decided I had to buy it. The writing is incredibly engaging and smooth, which makes it all the more interesting that it's describing this guy's fraught relationship with the western world's shared past and his own family's history. It's one of the few books, too, featuring a neurotic Jewish protagonist whose tics I actually find believable and whose sometimes self-obsessed meanderings are worth following through every twist and turn (and I am decidedly not neurotic and non-Jewish!). I highly recommend sampling this unique new voice - especially if you have an interest in Europe, family memoir or, strangely enough, genetics.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a fascinating and unusual book. It defies definition -- it's a travel journal, character profile and history lesson all rolled into one. It's comedic and sad -- at times intimate, often funny, and always very human. The author manages to examine the political landscape of Austria on a very personal (and sheep filled) level. In spite of its serious subject matter, the book's pace is swift and entertaining -- and the author's wit and chronic neuroses are irresistible! My only wish was that the book would come complete with a cd collection of Hans the wandering shepherd's greatest Yiddish hits.

Regardless, it's unlike anything I've read before, and I would highly recommend it.
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Format: Hardcover
This was a Father's day gift selected by a thoughtfull daughter and was devowered by me in a single interlude. Yiddish is a very rich language and contains many words which define subtle differences between closely related conditions. For example Hans is clearly michiggie while, in my opinion, the author is zedreht. Michiggie means a little bit crazy; in contrast zedreht means really screwed up. The book is at times, funny, strange, bizarre, sobering and fascinating. The presentation of Mr. Apples many and not uncommon neurosis, while interesting, is perhaps overdone. The issue of Austrian anti-semitism is well explored and the failure of many older Austrians to come to terms with it does not reflect positively on their society. We should never forget that Hitler was an Austrian and that his exposure to anti-semitism in Vienna played a significant role in his attitude towards the Jews.

Even though the book has a rather weak ending I enjoyed it and recommend it to everyone as a good example of how neurotics can be interesting people and how they can survive in a complex and often hostile environment.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Schlepping Through the Alps" opens a fascinating window for Americans into the little-discussed world of Austria's internal politics. Unfortunately, the view is clouded by Sam Apple's insistence on foisting descriptions on the reader of his neuroses, his sexual adventures with a "hip" Austrian woman, and the banal details of the protagonist's dysfunctional family. Woody Allen worked comic wonders with the neurotic secular Jewish character, but that persona lost its freshness nearly 30 years ago. If a reader may offer advice to Mr. Apple for his next book, it would be to share more of the results of his impressive interviewing and observation skills, and to keep his private life private.
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Format: Paperback
There are two stories here. Which one dominates your reading will depend in part on your tendency to optimism or pessimism at the moment that you read. The grim story that hangs over everything is the fate of the Jews in Austria. There were a quarter million Jews and people of Jewish parentage in Austria in the 1930's. After the Austrians decided to kill or expel their Jewish neighbors, there were almost none. Today, the Jews of Austria number about 10,000-most of them in Vienna.
The comedy is the story of Hans Breuer, a folk-singing grand-child of the radical sixties. In the middle of the world's most developed economy, he makes a living as a shepherd: a Jewish shepherd.Sam Apple, the author of this book, plays with the nature of the shepherd's life, the mercurial personality of Hans Breuer and the odd business of being Jewish in a country where killing Jews was a bit of a national sport.
Having spent a great deal of time in Vienna, I can tell you that Apple gets a great deal of this right. He certainly gets all of it funny, or at least wry. He concentrates on lingering old-fashioned anti-semetism and ignores both the small philo-semetic counter-trend and the more genteel neo-jew-hating of the left.
Apple spends a great deal of his time talking about himself and so the book is also partly a memoir. The self that he reveals is game for the adventure of being a shepard for a while, but also comically neurotic and thereby a bit unattractive.
On one of my last trips to Austria, I went to a Hans Breuer recital. It was at a bar in the countryside. Half the audience was out from Vienna, the other half local people having dinner. Breuer seemed to think he was in a concert hall and between songs went back in the kitchen to silence the cooks. It was an awkward moment, but one that seemed to fit.

Lynn Hoffman, Author of The New Short Course in Wine
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