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The Last Jew: A Novel Paperback – January 8, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
In this epic novel (originally published in Hebrew in 1982), Kaniuk, one of Israel's foremost writers, attempts both to cut through and to portray the lingering fog of WWII, the aftereffects of the holocaust and the conflicts surrounding the creation of Israel. Set in various parts of Europe and Isreal, the story revolves around the interconnected lives of three families-two Jewish and one German. When Ebenezer Schneerson, a Jew, returns from WWII, he finds that he has lost all of his own memories, yet can mysteriously recite every last scrap of Jewish culture, from Einstein's theories to the personal histories of families he has never known. He is pursued by a Jewish teacher and a German writer, each seeking to write the definitive account of Schneerson, dubbed the "Last Jew." Kaniuk makes readers work hard to piece together the fragmented story. His headlong, associative sentences, some of which go on for pages, mirror the characters' labyrinthine imaginations, memories, emotions and perceptions, which are all further complicated by the traumas of war. As the story slowly unfolds in a Joycean stream of consciousness, Kaniuk (Adam Resurrected, 2000) presents a layered, sweeping panorama of 20th Century Jewish life and identity.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
*Starred Review* A disoriented veteran of Israel's 1948 War of Independence, Boaz Schneerson wanders the streets of Tel Aviv in search of "a new biography he can live in." His amnesiac father--civilian survivor of the Holocaust--traverses Europe, alternately enthralling and disgusting cabaret audiences with bizarre multilingual recitals of Einstein's theory of relativity interlaced with the Talmudic wisdom of preconquest Spanish Jews and the illicit amours of medieval popes. Father and son, the Schneersons have captivated readers of world literature since 1982, when The Last Jew first appeared in Hebrew. Fortunately, an adept translator has now ushered the Schneersons--with all their treacherous and bewildering retinue--into the English-speaking world. Not for casual perusal, The Last Jew makes heavy demands on its readers, compelling them--as does Faulkner's As I Lay Dying or Joyce's Ulysses--to find a context and meaning for the fractured perceptions and convoluted lives of the characters that confront them. But the readers' struggle for meaning mirrors that of the characters as they wander personal labyrinths, desperately trying to recover and make sense of their dark individual and collective memories. Ultimately, the disorienting narrative exposes the precariousness of Jewish identity in a hostile world, where betrayal engenders Jewish history and cupidity feeds off of Jewish grief. The reader concludes not with a sense of closure and reassurance but rather with a painful awareness of the unfinished tasks facing a long-beleaguered people. Neither critical theory nor archetypal psychology will soon exhaust this deep literary well. An essential acquisition. Bryce Christensen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Hard to navigate through and understand what the author was trying to convey.
I did complete the book though it was touch and go at times
I could not give it the fifth star because like so many novels, the ending was weak.
Well, The Last Jew is one long excursion into fantasy and experimentation. Most traditional markers of storytelling are eliminated. There are a host of characters; they arrive and disappear; their motives are odd and disjointed. Long fantastic passages are followed by relatively standard sections of narrative. But Kaniuk never lets us really rest. The novel is long and demanding.
And it is about The Last Jew, and about the fate of the Jews. Apparently Kaniuk felt the need to tell the story of the fate of the Jews in a convoluted fashion to mirror the reality of Jewish fate. Whether a reader will want to tackle this ambitious program is doubtful.