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Comment: The item shows wear from consistent use, but it remains in good condition and works perfectly. All pages and cover are intact (including the dust cover, if applicable). Spine may show signs of wear. Pages may include limited notes and highlighting. May include "From the library of" labels.
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A Century of Wisdom: Lessons from the Life of Alice Herz-Sommer, the World's Oldest Living Holocaust Survivor Hardcover – Deckle Edge, March 20, 2012

4.5 out of 5 stars 147 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“An instruction manual for a life well lived.”The Wall Street Journal
 
“As if her 108 years of experience alone were not enough to coax you, there is the overarching fact that draws people to Herz-Sommer’s story: She survived the Theresienstadt concentration camp and is believed to be the oldest living Holocaust survivor.”The Washington Post
 
“I have rarely read a Holocaust survivor’s memoir as enriching and meaningful. Get Caroline Stoessinger’s book, A Century of Wisdom, telling Alice Herz-Sommer’s tale of her struggles and triumphs. You will feel rewarded.”—Elie Wiesel
 
A Century of Wisdom is a stately and elegant book about an artist who found deliverance in her passion for music. Caroline Stoessinger writes with a special purity, as though she were arranging pearls on a string of silk.”—Pat Conroy
 
“As one of millions who fell in love on YouTube with Alice Herz-Sommer, a 108-year-old Holocaust survivor who plays the piano and greets each day with no hint of bitterness, I’m grateful to Caroline Stoessinger for writing a book that explains this mystery. You will be inspired by the story of Alice Herz-Sommer, who lives to teach us.”—Gloria Steinem
 
“I walked on the cobblestones in Prague for thirty years wondering who might have walked on them before me: Kafka, Freud, Mahler. It feels like a miracle to have encountered, in Caroline Stoessinger’s wonderful book, Alice Herz-Sommer, who walked with them all—with a heart full of music.”—Peter Sis
 
“Caroline Stoessinger’s celebration of music and life and of the meaning and legacy of Alice Herz-Sommer’s remarkable, love-filled journey across the bitter, hate-filled years of twentieth-century madness is lyrical, compelling, and profoundly moving. This is an extraordinary, enchanting, entirely inspiring book—most timely and needed now.”—Blanche Wiesen Cook
 
A Century of Wisdom is universal and will enrich readers for generations to come.”—Itzhak Perlman

“A treasure trove of insight and reflection. Herz-Sommer’s life is a tribute to the purity of artistic endeavor under the most devastating circumstances, and her refusal to be bitterly defined or essentially reshaped by tragedy is a testament to moral and spiritual courage.”Booklist
 
“What Stoessinger’s work reveals startlingly and firsthand are details of life in the concentration camp, especially how the musicians coped with the horrible conditions and even formed a vibrant community. . . . ‘Every concert played there,’ Stoessinger writes, ‘became a moral victory against the enemy.’”Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

Caroline Stoessinger, a pianist, has appeared on the stages of Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center and for twenty-five years has performed with the Tokyo String Quartet and the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra. Stoessinger produced the televised dedication of the Schindler violin at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the first New York production of Brundibár. She has played in concert halls from Tokyo and Prague to Spillville, Iowa, and for many years served as the artistic director at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. She is artistic director of chamber music at the Tilles Center, artist-in-residence at John Jay College, director of the Newberry Chamber Players at the Newberry Opera House, and founder and president of the Mozart Academy. She lives in New York City.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Spiegel & Grau; First Edition first Printing edition (March 20, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812992814
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812992816
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.1 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (147 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #129,859 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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By Sharon Beverly TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Before you think that, a story about a 108 year-old Holocaust survivor will be sad, think again. This is no re-hash of history. Amazingly upbeat, the author gives us an accurate account of Alice Herz-Sommer's life. (Having seen a brief documentary featuring Mrs. Herz-Sommer several years ago, I know her portrayal is accurate.)

Alice will destroy every concept you may have about old people. "She says that, just because she is old in years, she is not irrelevant. And more insistently Alice says, 'My mind is young. My emotions and my imagination are still young.' Then with a whimsical bit of laughter, 'Of course, I do have some experience.' 'You cannot see the real me inside my wrinkled skin, the life of my emotions. What you see is only the outer face of a very old woman.'

Zest for life emanates from her. Herz-Sommer, a concert pianist, lives through her music. Embracing Spinoza's philosophy, she believes that, "....death and life are part of the same infinity or God...We come from and return to Infinity." "Things are as they are supposed to be. I am still here--never too old so long as I breathe to wonder, to learn, and yes, still to teach. Curiosity--interest in others, and, above all, music. This is life." It is not only her exquisite musical talent that makes her extraordinary. This ability to question and learn and find joy in life--despite its tragedies--is what defines her as a remarkable woman.

Even her philosophy about child-rearing when she was a young mother was counter to her times. She believed children could never have too much love. And in the concentration camp, it was her love and indomitable cheerfulness with which she raised her only child, her son, Rafi. She epitomizes her creed, "I never give up hope.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Remarkable lives make for remarkable books, and a life that intersected with Kafka, Meir, and Hitler with still no sign of fading at 108 is quite remarkable. Several books have described Herz-Sommer's life. This one focuses on her musical talents, her optimism, and her wisdom as to how to get through life with honor and happiness despite hardships. Far from a self-help book, however, the text presents Herz-Sommer's history through various glimpses of her life - her early childhood recollections, her days in a concentration camp, the career - and eventually the death - of her son, alongside stories of peeling potatoes with Golda Meir and walks through a park with Kafka.

The book is a quick read, both well-written and compelling, thanks to the work of Caroline Stoessinger through many hours of interviews and friendship with the subject. One cannot help but feel some sadness for an individual who has outlived her home, her child, and indeed her entire country; and yet Herz-Sommer's outlook remains upbeat and she remains surrounded by friends and musical colleagues. How she has achieved this is the basic topic of the entire text, a firm lesson as to one way - perhaps the best way - of living and leading a rich and fruitful life.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
A Century of Wisdom is a tribute to Alice Herz-Sommer, the world's oldest living Holocaust survivor. This book does not focus on Alice's experiences in the Holocaust. She did not want to talk about her time in Theresienstadt; a way station to Auschwitz for many, and known as the `model' German concentration camp where she gave concerts. Alice played more than a hundred concerts there between 1943 and liberation.

Music gave her hope and helped the other prisoners forget finding their names on transport lists to Auschwitz, and their hunger and their harsh surroundings. (More than 156,000 passed through the gates of Theresienstadt and only 11% would survive.)

The book skims across the surface of Alice's life, beginning with her idyllic early days in Czechoslovakia, her time as a prisoner in Theresienstadt, to her time in Israel and London. The book focuses less on Alice's time as a concentration camp prisoner and more on Alice's illustrious musical career and famous people she knew.

There are some interesting anecdotes about Kafka who was a friend of Alice's sister's fiancé. Alice remembered Kafka as an `eternal child' who when he couldn't decide what to study, became a lawyer. He was often late and often got lost, and made up stories of wild imaginary beasts and could be a lot of fun.

Alice became friends with Israel's Prime Minister, Golda Meir and tells about the day Golda helped her peel potatoes in her kitchen.

The book jumps around in time which at times makes the narrative difficult to follow, but this is more an observation than a criticism. There is little to criticize here. It was written about, and with the help of, a woman who is 107 years old who has had a long and rich and interesting life.
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There is really no explaining why some events destroy one person and are conquered by another. Alice Herz Sommer had a charmed life as a young married woman in pre WWII Prague. A beloved daughter in an upper middle class jewish family she was also an extraordinary musician. But the day the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia her world imploded. Her mother and husband were sent to concentration camps and eventually so was Alice along with her six year old son. Music saved her life and her soul over and over again.She just refused to see herself as a victim. The Nazis did not conquer Alice, neither did breast cancer or the death of her beloved son. Read this book and see how you see the world differently and your role in the world--even if the effect is just for one day. A powerful story about an extraordinary person.
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