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Soul of Wood (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – January 5, 2010

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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Classics
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (January 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590173309
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590173305
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.1 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,695,160 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Hilarious, tragic and beautiful...the most notable short story writer to appear in the last two decades...what symbolism, what nightmare visions and surrealistic drama--what art!...At times, Lind seems a Viennese blend of Charles Addams and Roald Dahl--though he is more talented...I have not read a book like this one in some time." --Maxwell Geismar, The New York Times Book Review

"An important and brilliant piece of work." --Alan Sillitoe

"This remarkable collection of short stories (the title story is actually a novella) concerns the madness of 20th-century European civilization." --The New York Times

"Without a doubt the most shattering work of fiction I have read in years...a reader is shaken both by laughter and horror. This is an amazing writer." --Willian Hogan, San Francisco Chronicle

“’Soul of Wood’ is emblematic of what Lind does best. He takes us from a world that can be seen and described in all its detail and complexity, into a world of inexplicable, magical events. . . . The effect is powerful and disturbing.” —Sasha Weiss, Nextbook

“Lind blended the deranged freedom of the 1960s and the death of reason in the 1940s into an extraordinary understanding of humanity. His books are not to be missed.” —Jeff Waxman, The Quarterly Conversation

“Nihilistic, metallic, absurd. . . . Intricate, black, bestial. . . .” —Robert Mazzocco

"Jakov Lind is the greatest living writer of Jewish Europe...Lind doesn't deserve to be read--he's necessary, both in the vicissitudes of his life and, too, in the work it created. His books are the last late bloom of the European Jewish landscape, straining sunward through the concealing concrete." --Forward Magazine (A tribute to Lind on his 80th birthday, published 6 days before his death)"

This is a richness of meaning in these pages that demands reflection." --Chicago Daily News

"Behind the imaginative lunacy of Lind's novels and tales -- and he never permits us to forget it -- looms the historical deracination that inspired it." --The Holocaust and the Literary Imagination

"Jakov Lind writes about the monstrous, the absurd, the unimaginable and the real. In this collection of six short stories and one novella it is often difficult to determine where reality ends and fantasy begins...Lind is a modern German writer whose stories are filled with symbolism and power...It is a fascinating experience to visit Lind's imaginary world of dreams and realism." --Charles Weisenberg, The New York Times

"Marvelously ironic, wonderful examples of story telling. Writers as talented as Jakov Lind are extremely rare." --Cecil Hemley, Saturday Review

"Lind has a brilliantly black imagination; as a poet of twentieth century horror he has few equals, Grass and Genet being among them." --Frederic Morton

"Jakov Lind is a genius." --Harry Golden

"Deserves to be read by anyone seriously interested in contemporary fiction." --Mordecai Richler

"Jakov was a bad boy. . . . He was a coyote, a trickster. He enjoyed hash and LSD. A wicked smile played around his mouth, while witty aphorisms and deep insights tripped off his lips. He emanated inner strength—and an electric intelligence that we all wanted to emulate." —Anthony Rudolf

Language Notes

Text: English, German (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Lane Silberstein on February 2, 2011
Format: Paperback
Franz Kafka said, "What we need are books that hit us like a most painful misfortune, like the death of someone we loved more than we love ourselves, that make use feel as though we had been banished to the woods, far from any human presence, like suicide."

A book has done that, and it is Jakov Lind's _Soul of Wood_.

Perhaps it was Lind's extraordinary past that produced such extraordinary work: the boy was separated from his parents-- who emigrated to Palestine-- after the Nazis annexed Austria, and he went into hiding in Holland. He took on many identities throughout his life, and even worked for the SS. He moved to London, befriended Canetti, and then wrote in English, lamenting his loss of German and European culture. Stefan Zweig's suicide, which forever separated him from his homeland, comes to mind.

I cannot put into words, at least not ones that rival Kafka's above, about how Lind's stories have touched me. They do, to be sure, affect me in a similar way as those of Kafka's absurdist works; I see Lind as a post-war Kafka, someone fully familiar with the chaos of the world and the ability to render it into almost perfect representational art. Lind's symbols, even ones as insane as a paralytic Jewish boy hidden from the Nazis at the top of an Austrian mountain with the help of a crippled WWI veteran (this is the background of the title story), will hopefully remain as prevalent as Kafka's human-turned-creature Gregor Samsa.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Giordano Bruno on November 30, 2012
Format: Paperback
... is small enough reward for having lived through Hitler's madness! When Jakov Lind published this collection of stories in 1962, at age 35, he had already outlived Hitler by seventeen years. Half his life! The first half had passed not without leaving its marks on his psyche, as these mind-wrenching stories attest. Even if you've read Keilson, Fallada, Koeppen, Grass, Joseph Roth, Sebald and other German-language writers who experienced the Nazi catastrophe firsthand, you'll find the novella "Soul of Wood" and the six shorter pieces that accompany it both disturbing and unique. There are fantastical elements in several of the stories that might be called "surreal" or perceived as grim revenants of Grimm tales. There are realistic absurdities and absurd realities, all expressed in language as fiercely flamboyant as the paintings of any German Expressionist. I don't want to spoil the shock of any of the larger pieces by summarizing them, but here's the shtick of "The Judgment", an eleven-page masterpiece:

""A young man, a mass murderer of women, is awaiting execution in his cell. He grimly contemplates the satisfaction he'd get from being able to murder once more before being slain by the system, and eventually concocts a scheme to murder his own father, whom he blames for the failures of his life. Feigning repentance, he begs the Warden to grant him a last private interview with that Father. When the father is summoned to the prison for this interview, however, he accepts only for the chance to kill his son and erase his shame of parentage ....""

And that's the least chilling story in the book!

The author was born Heinz Jakov Landwirth on 10 February 1927 in Vienna.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Roger Brunyate TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 2, 2013
Format: Paperback
"I had, consecutively, been a sailor on a tugboat, an assistant to a spy, an employee in a food rationing office, a fisherman in the Mediterranean, a road worker in Jerusalem, a beach photographer in Tel Aviv...". Jakov Lind's capsule autobiography, of which this is only a part, omits his separation from his parents and escape from Vienna to Holland on a Kindertransport after the Anschluss, or the fact that the first three of these jobs were conducted in Nazi Germany, a Jew hiding in the enemy camp under a false name.

Normally, I do not bother with an author's biography before reading his works, but Lind's case is different, because his wild, surreal, grotesque stories are only explicable -- perhaps only tolerable -- in the light of his own suffering and bizarre escape. One of the six shorter stories in this book, "Hurrah for Freedom," concerns a family of refugees from the Soviet Union who live together in an overheated barn, obese and naked, delightedly dining on their own children. Even freedom can exact too high a price. Cannibalism appears in one of the other stories too, as does a mass murderer, a former SS officer turned Jesuit priest without losing his taste for seduction, and a sleepless man's midnight encounter with God.

The title story, the longest in the book, is basically a novella. It is not hard to see Jakov's own background in the opening situation of two Jewish parents departing by train for Poland, leaving their paralyzed son in the care of the one-legged WW1 veteran whom they have paid to look after him in secret. The veteran keeps his promise and conveys to boy to a hut in the mountains. But then the story turns surreal, as the boy undergoes a sudden transformation that can perhaps be understood as a metaphor for Jakov's own escape.
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