Making sense of the world's myriad conflicts is difficult at the best of times. Without a map, and an explanation of geography, it is almost impossible. Words can tell you what is happening, the map helps you to understand why it is happening.
Leonard Michaels was born in New York in 1933 and spent his last decade in Tuscany. He spoke Yiddish until he was six and a good deal of Italian before he died. In the half-century between, he wrote in English and taught literature at the University of California at Berkeley. Some claim him as one of the masters of style of his period.
Etgar Keret is trying to explain to his little boy why fathers protect their sons: "'The world we live in can sometimes be very rough. And it's only fair that everyone who's born into it should have at least one person who'll be there to protect him.' 'What about you?'" Lev asks. "'Who'll protect you now that Grandpa's dead?'"
'It's good to have him back", Salman Rushdie wrote at the beginning of the Stefan Zweig revival. "Stefan Zweig just tastes fake," wrote the critic and translator, Michael Hofmann. "He's the Pepsi of Austrian writing."
Nathaniel Mayer Rothschild, the first Lord Rothschild (1840-1915), better known as Natty, was the leader of British Jewry and perhaps of Jewish communities across the globe. In 1885, he was raised to the peerage on Gladstone's recommendation, becoming the first Jewish peer, and participated fully in British imperial expansion.
Saint Mazie by Jami Attenberg (Serpent's Tail £12.99) is a heart-wringing novel inspired by an essay called Mazie in Joseph Mitchell's celebrated book of New York stories, Up in the Old Hotel. Attenberg's wondrous imagination breathes real life into the histories of people who have vanished into the past; the homeless, hungry victims of the Great Depression.
The daring rescue of nearly 100 hostages by Israeli special forces from Entebbe International Airport, Uganda, in 1976 marked a watershed in the global fight against terrorism and a turning-point for Israel, too. Until then, plane hijackings, pioneered by the Palestinians and enthusiastically taken up by sympathetic terrorist groups, were rife and usually successful.
To amplify Ecclesiastes, "Of making many books about Israel there is no end". Reading this latest addition to the plethora, from Leslie Stein, I had the vague feeling that perhaps I had reviewed a previous book of his.
As he lay dying, Saul Bellow asked a friend: "Was I a man or a jerk?" The case for the prosecution would argue he had five marriages, four ending in divorce, numerous affairs, and was too self-absorbed to be much of a father. "He had a biblical Old World morality," said one woman who encountered him, "but his fly was entirely unzipped at all times."