Review: The World of Yesterday

By David Herman, December 29, 2009

By Stefan Zweig (Trans: Anthea Bell)
Pushkin Press £20

Stefan Zweig was one of the great central European writers of the 20th century and his memoir, The World of Yesterday, is his masterpiece. It was written just before he left America for Brazil, where he and his wife committed suicide in 1942. A superb evocation of turn-of-the-century Vienna written in a series of hotel rooms, it is laden with Zweig’s awareness that he was writing about a vanished world.


Review: Tales of the Ten Lost Tribes

By Miriam Shaviv, December 29, 2009

By Tamar Yellin
St Martin’s Press £8.99

Tales of the Ten Lost Tribes is an unsettling book. A meditation on rootlessness, without saying anything particularly profound on the subject, it nonetheless conveys such a pure sense of loneliness, of yearning for home and for belonging, that it left me with a profound sense of melancholy at the end.

While not quite Waiting for Godot — in which the main characters’ boredom with life is transferred to the audience — the emotional impact here, too, seems to be a significant part of the message.


The list to end all lists

By Peter Moss, December 29, 2009

The indefatigable Ben Schott’s latest social barometer, Schott’s Almanac 2010 (Bloomsbury £16.99), curiously published together with his 2009 edition (Bloomsbury £18.99), is a gloriously random tome full of information of no real value, but huge fun nonetheless.


Top of the tales in 2009

By Angela Kiverstein, December 22, 2009

Teddy bears and teenage spies were among the highlights of children’s fiction in 2009.

Winner of the Booktrust Teenage prize was Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book (Bloomsbury, £7.99, age 11 to adult), in which young Nobody Owens is brought up by strange foster parents — a vampire and a family of ghosts, while Gaiman’s Coraline, featuring sinister bogus parents with button eyes, was made into an animated film.


How the Chronicle revealed the ice-cream plot

By Angela Kiverstein, December 22, 2009

Forget climate change — a new eco-disaster threatens, reports the Lamonical Chronicle (the online offshoot of Andy Stanton’s Mr Gum series, published by Egmont). According to the Chronicle, space-squirrels are building huge sponges to dry up our oceans and gigantic scissors to cut off the tops of our mountains and steal the ice-cream inside. Read more at


In store for 2010

By Angela Kiverstein, December 22, 2009

Little literati will have their own fair, “Little Bookniks”, at Jewish Book Week, on Sunday March 7, 2010. The theme is “dreams and nightmares” (with fancy-dress prizes). Participants will have the chance to design a book cover, contribute to a “Word Wall”, or add their input to a Morris Gleitzman story.


Critics' bites of the year

December 17, 2009

● ‘I always think that the person Freud was most like was Groucho Marx – they both loved jokes and, of course, cigars.’
Psychological-detective writer Frank Tallis, interviewed by Jenni Frazer (Jan 2)

● Though we still sit round the table on a Friday night, anorexia is common in our community and obsession with the body has affected us as much as any other community.
Julia Neuberger on Bodies by Susie Orbach (Feb 20)


Review: Footnotes in Gaza

By Ariel Kahn, December 9, 2009

By Joe Sacco
Jonathan Cape £20

Joe Sacco has built a formidable reputation as a comics journalist. His early work, Palestine, won an American Book Award and he received the 2001 Eisner best original graphic novel award for Safe Area Gorazde, about the conflict in Bosnia.

That same year, Sacco was preparing an article on Gaza for Harpers magazine with journalist Chris Hedges. This included material on events of 1956 that was cut from the published article.


The Warsaw Ghetto: A Guide To The Perished City

By Ben Barkow, December 9, 2009

By Barbara Engelking & Jacek Leociak
Yale University Press £40

The devil, they say, is in the detail. This extraordinary book bears out the epithet. Its 906 pages form a vastly detailed portrait of Jews in the ghetto, struggling for survival under the radical evil of Nazi occupation. It is a book displaying deep scholarship, but also intense emotion.


Fictional non-fiction

By Peter Moss, December 9, 2009

The cult of celebrity, says Melissa Katsoulis in Telling Tales: A History of Literary Hoaxes (Constable £8.99), is nothing new, but the desire to see the worst and/or smallest parts of a star is a post-war invention. And because the unearthing of sordid details about well-known figures is such a big-money game, it is no surprise that literary hoaxers with dollar signs in their eyes have sprung up in all corners of the media.