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The Lost (P.S.) [Kindle Edition]

Daniel Mendelsohn
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (164 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.99
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Book Description

In this rich and riveting narrative, a writer's search for the truth behind his family's tragic past in World War II becomes a remarkably original epic—part memoir, part reportage, part mystery, and part scholarly detective work—that brilliantly explores the nature of time and memory, family and history.

Editorial Reviews Review

Daniel Mendelsohn's The Lost is the deeply personal account of a search for one family among his larger family, the one barely spoken of, only to say they were "killed by the Nazis." Mendelsohn, even as a boy, was always the one interested in his family's history, but when he came upon a set of letters from his great uncle Schmiel, pleading for help from his American relatives as the Nazi grip on the lives of Jews in their Polish town became tighter and tighter, he set out to find what had happened to that lost family. The result is both memoir and history, an ambitious and gorgeously meditative detective story that takes him across the globe in search of the lost threads of these few almost forgotten lives.

A whole culture lies behind the story Mendelsohn tells, and a lifetime of reading as well. For our Grownup School feature, he has given us a tour of some of the books behind his own, in a list he calls 10 Great Novels of Family History, the Holocaust, New York Jewish Life (And Other Things That Helped Me Write My Book). And you can watch his own moving introduction to the book in this short video:

Watch Daniel Mendelsohn introduce The Lost: high bandwidth or low bandwidth

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. As a boy in the 1960s, Mendelsohn could make elderly relatives cry just by entering the room, so much did he resemble his great-uncle Shmiel Jäger, who had been "killed by the Nazis." This short phrase was all Mendelsohn knew of his maternal grandfather Abraham's brother, who had remained with his wife and four daughters in the Ukrainian shtetl of Bolechow after Abraham left for America. Long obsessed with family history, Mendelsohn (The Elusive Embrace) embarked in 2001 on a series of journeys to learn exactly what had happened to Shmiel and his family. The result is a rich, ruminative "mythic narrative... about closeness and distance, intimacy and violence, love and death." Mendelsohn uses these words to describe the biblical story of Cain and Abel, for one of the book's most striking elements is the author's recounting of the book of Genesis in parallel with his own story, highlighting eternal themes of origins and family, temptation and exile, brotherly betrayal, creation and annihilation. In Ukraine, Australia, Israel and Scandinavia, Mendelsohn locates a handful of extraordinary, aged Bolechow survivors. Especially poignant is his relationship with novelist Louis Begley's 90-year-old mother, from a town near the shtetl, an irascible, scene-stealing woman who eagerly follows Mendelsohn's remarkable effort to retrieve her lost world. B&w photos, maps. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1993 KB
  • Print Length: 528 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0060542993
  • Publisher: HarperCollins e-books; Reissue edition (October 13, 2009)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #350,167 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
88 of 92 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartrending And Hypnotic February 1, 2007
This is one of the saddest, most heartrending books I have read in years. I could not bear to stop reading, even when I was revolted by the descriptions of torture and death that were visited upon innocents. There can never be too many books about the Holocaust, particularly in these days when some deny that it even took place. This one is especially important since it contains so many eye witness accounts from aged people whose voices must soon be quiet forever.

As a young boy growing up among his extended Jewish family Daniel Mendelsohn was mystified by the tears that broke out whenever he entered a room occupied by his grandparents and great-aunts and uncles. He looked so much like Schmiel, a man he only vaguely knew to be an uncle who had died in Eastern Europe during World War II. Fortunately, Daniel became interested in family history at an early age and began to ask questions and keep records. Eventually, as an adult, he and his siblings undertook to discover what had actually happened to Uncle Schmiel and his family.

The resulting journeys took Daniel to Ukraine, Israel, Poland, Sweden, and Australia among other places and allowed him to meet many former residents of Bolochow, the shtetl in which Daniel's family, including Schmiel, had lived. He interviewed witnesses to the deaths of Schmiel and his wife and daughters and recorded sometimes conflicting accounts of their deaths and those of thousands of others. At times the stories are repetitive, but they are no less compelling to read.

I liked this book on a number of levels. First, as I said above, its another essential Holocaust record and must be one of the last to record so many first hand accounts of what happened during the Final Solution. Second, the many characters are very appealing.
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129 of 140 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book I've read in a very long time September 22, 2006
I could not put this book down for three days. Literally. I got food on it and bathwater and fell asleep reading with my head on the table at 3 am. I woke the next morning groping for it. It is moving and powerful and beautifully written. I cannot recommend it more highly and have already purchased copies for my friends and family.
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Letter To My Children October 13, 2006
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I am about to be 60 and am reading a book that fills me with regret, THE LOST, by Daniel Mendelsohn, the story of how he tracked down the final days of his grandfather's brother and that man's four beautiful daughters. I have finished the first fifth of the book and am convinced that it is the greatest literary work that I have read since my youthful exposure to Proust and the early novels of Saul Bellow. Mendelsohn combines a personal memoir of growing up in a "modern" Jewish family in America with historical detective work based on old photographs, recovered letters, interviews, trips, internet sites devoted to the little towns of Eastern Europe and Jewish genealogy, and couches it in the most beautiful and evocative and thoughtful sentences, often based on the style of Proust (to whom he has given the opening epigraph of the book), organizing his discussion around an analysis of the first book of the Torah (even mentioning my Haftorah passage, Lech lecha) and Homer's Iliad. He brings to life long lost people, places, philosophical issues, with drama and mystery. He has assembled a complete genealogy of his family and has testified to the power of memory, language (Yiddish, Hebrew, German), family love, pride and humor. He is unfailingly generous in his descriptions and conclusions. The book is illustrated with photographs taken by his younger brother. The parallels with our own family history, our life in New York and in Florida, the impact of parents on the intellectual growth of their children, the impact of religious stories and scholarship, the diaspora to America and Israel, are incredibly resonant and moving, and all this in the first 70 pages. Read more ›
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71 of 79 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Search For One's Family September 22, 2006
Mr. Mendelsohn has lost 6 family members in the Holocaust and has reclaimed their lives in "The Lost." This is not a dry, academic tome with statistics and analysis of the death camps. The author is a participant within the book as he successfully plays detective to uncover the fate of his relatives. The writing is nothing less than brilliant and never boring. He uncovers betrayals, sacrifices and heroics within the small town of Bolechow, Poland. Mr. Mendelsohn seems to have found every aged survivor from Bolechow -- this book is their witness to the Holocaust.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Once in a while a book comes along that has the power to involve me emotionally. "The Lost" is one of those books, a complex, multilayered modern odyssey. Subtitled "A Search for Six of the Six Million, this 2006 non-fiction tome is the personal story of the author's recent quest to discover exactly what happened to six members of his family who perished during the Holocaust. Like myself, Daniel Mendelson is an American Jew. He's a generation younger than me, but, unlike myself, some of his family members lived in Eastern Europe in the 1940s, and his beloved grandfather's brother, sister-in-law and four teenage daughters were "lost" during that awful time.

The author's journey led him to the Ukraine, Israel, Australia and Scandinavia. He spoke with elderly survivors who had some memory of his family or the way they lived. What he learned was shocking, chilling and yet somehow inspiring. The people he spoke to were old, their memories were fading, and some of the stories they told were merely rumors. Often, some of the stories contradicted each other. Questions were raised. Did one of the daughters have a romantic relationship with a young Polish man who tried to save her? What was the real reason that one of the brothers emigrated to Israel in the 1930s? What was it like for the people who had all their possessions and dignity stripped from them? How did each one of these six people die? And, ever more importantly, how did they live?

As the author is a professor of classics, mixed in with the basic story are very interesting discourses on complex interpretations of the Old Testament. There are many interpretations of the way the ancient words were used and discussions about their true meaning.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I thoroughly enjoyed this book despite the horrific subject matter.
Published 1 month ago by gamelover
4.0 out of 5 stars good read and like details about people's lives (though a ...
Being an amateur genealogist for most of my life I found this story fascinating. We look and look for certain people. Read more
Published 1 month ago by BJBillings
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartbreaking and breathtaking
What an incredible journey Daniel Mendelsohn takes us on in his book. One of the best books I've read in a long time.
Published 1 month ago by Amanda
4.0 out of 5 stars A Worthwhile Read
Although I was not interested in the Jewish "asides", I did find the story itself very interesting. Once he got started, the author's persistence in finding out just what happened... Read more
Published 1 month ago by SkInNy
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece of the First Order
This is hands down one of the best books I have ever read. It is magical, disturbing, provocative, fascinating and stays in your thoughts for a long, long time. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Adam J. Loewy
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting
This story maintained my curiosity from start to finish. It certainly brought home the horrors of The Holocaust down to a personal level.
Published 3 months ago by Barry Shmeizer
5.0 out of 5 stars The lost
A sad, heartbreaking yet deeply moving book that has me in awe of the author and his intelligence and perseverance . Read more
Published 3 months ago by sherry craig
5.0 out of 5 stars Resonant and exquisitely told.
Brilliant, deep, rich, beautiful, moving. Written with a clear head, uncanny perception, and a full heart. Read more
Published 3 months ago by K. Forward
4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good
I found that the writing style was quite poor. U could be left in the dark after some chapters. The use of the bible was good but long windered. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Evan
4.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing Holocaust detective story
From as early as he can remember, American writer Daniel Mendelsohn keeps being told by relatives how much he looks like his great-uncle Schmiel Jaeger, who died with his family... Read more
Published 5 months ago by David Ljunggren
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More About the Author

Daniel Mendelsohn, an award-winning author, critic, and translator, is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker and the New York Review of Books. Born on Long Island, he began a career in journalism in New York City in the early 1990s while completing his Ph.D. in Classics at Princeton. Since then, his articles, essays, reviews and translations have appeared frequently in numerous national publications, including The New York Times, Esquire, Newsweek, The Paris Review, and Travel + Leisure, where he is a contributing editor. From 2000 until 2002, he was the weekly book critic for New York magazine, for which he won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Excellence in Criticism.

His books include a memoir, "The Elusive Embrace" (1999), a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year; the international bestseller "The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million" (2006), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award, the National Jewish Book Award, the Salon Book Award, and many other honors in the US and abroad, including the Prix Médicis in France; two collection of his essays and criticism, "How Beautiful It Is and How Easily It Can Be Broken" (2008), a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, and "Waiting for the Barbarians: Essays from the Classics to Pop Culture" (2012); and an acclaimed two-volume translation, with Introduction and Commentary, of the Complete Poems of the Alexandrian Greek poet Constantine Cavafy (2009), also a Publisher Weekly Best Book of the Year, which was published in 2012 as a single-volume paperback.

Daniel Mendelsohn was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2012; he is also a member of the American Philosophical Society. Other honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship and the George Jean Nathan Prize for Dramatic Criticism. A longtime resident of New York City, he teaches literature at Bard College.

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