Saul Bellow: Letters

By David Herman, December 20, 2010

Editied by Benjamin Taylor
Viking, £30

In the best essay ever written on Saul Bellow, Philip Roth wrote that his friend "managed brilliantly to close the gap between Thomas Mann and Damon Runyon". Bellow indeed brought together the teeming, busy world of post-war America, with its wise-guys, money men and "reality instructors", and the high seriousness of old Europe.


Leslie Howard: The Lost Actor

By John Nathan, December 20, 2010

By Estel Eforgan
Vallentine Mitchell, £45

When Leslie Howard was shot down over the Bay of Biscay by Luftwaffe Junkers, the loss of this quintessentially English and, perhaps much less obviously, Jewish film star at the age of 50 was much mourned.

It was 1943 and Howard had just left Lisbon, the final stage of his latest and, as it turned out, last anti-Nazi propaganda trip on behalf of Britain. The purpose was to bolster pro-British opinion in countries that were neutral in the war but where fascists were still active.


Critical mass 2010

December 14, 2010


● Zweig… brings to life the horrors of the First World War, of famine and inflation in post-war Austria and Germany, where in 1923, "a shoe lace cost more… than a luxury shop with a stock of two thousand pairs of shoes". And then he describes leaving his Salzburg home for the last time: "as the train crossed the border, I knew, like the patriarch Lot in the Bible, that all behind me was dust and ashes, the past transformed into a pillar of bitter salt."
David Herman on Stefan Zweig's memoir 'The World of Yesterday', reissued by Pushkin Press


Romain Gary: A Tall Story

By Stoddard Martin, December 6, 2010

By David Bellos
Harvill Secker, £30

By virtue of linguistic skill and geographical displacement, the Lithuanian Jew who called himself Romain Gary was able to devise a storybook life.

Born under Russian imperium prior to the First World War, he grew up in a renascent Poland, only to move to Franco-Italian Nice before the Nazi-Soviet pact brought catastrophe to his region.


Review: The Philosopher of Auschwitz

By Ben Barkow, December 6, 2010

By Irène Heidelberger-Leonard (Translated by Anthea Bell)
I. B. Tauris, £20

The translation of Irène Heidelberger-Leonard's biography of the late Jean Améry is welcome because hers is the only full-length account of this Holocaust survivor and writer available in English.

However, the author's evident emotional involvement with her subject undermines the work. We see this complex, troubled individual, who took his own life in 1978, so wholly through her eyes that we are kept at a distance.


Review: Turbulent Times

By Miri Freud-Kandel, December 1, 2010

By Keith Kahn-Harris and Ben Gidley
Continuum, £19.99

The current proliferation of studies of British Jews, whether chief rabbis, institutions or laity, is remarkable. The authors of this latest work would probably argue that this reflects the increasing vitality of Anglo-Jewry. For theirs is a broadly positive account of the state of contemporary Jewish life in Britain. Indeed, the book claims that a study of the current British Jewish community is instructive in relation to minority groups in general in modern Britain.


Review: Home Alone

By Lawrence Joffe, November 30, 2010

By David Cohen
JR Books, £16.99

Little could prepare David Cohen for the shock that awaited him once he turned 12. First his mother and then his father - both of them lawyers - left home. Cohen suddenly became a foreign-born child living alone in very English and middle-class 1950s Marble Arch.

A pupil at the prestigious St Paul's School, young David received a weekly allowance and met his father every Friday evening to celebrate a makeshift Sabbath at a French restaurant.


Journeys and joys, pain and pleasure

By Michael Horovitz, November 19, 2010

For more than 50 years, Elaine Feinstein has quietly stockpiled her diverse literary energies, which continue to glow like a constantly burning bush of inspirations, athwart the contemporary wastes of near-universally officialised Philistia. Her latest book of poems, Cities (Carcanet, £9.95), amounts to a colourfully revealing snapshot album of her physical and mental travels around the globe and through history.


Presence: Collected Stories of Arthur Miller

By David Herman, October 29, 2010

By Arthur Miller
Bloomsbury, £9.99

Arthur Miller's stock remains high. Two much-acclaimed new productions in London - All My Sons, which recently closed after a successful West-End run, and Broken Glass, with Antony Sher at the Tricycle - have confirmed his reputation as one of the great post-war playwrights. But he was more than just a dramatist.


Visitation: It's all on the house

By Jennifer Lipman, October 28, 2010

By Jenny Erpenbeck
Portobello, £10.99

History happens to people, but it leaves its mark most of all on places — such appears to be the view of German novelist, Jenny Erpenbeck. Her unsettling, quirky new novel offers a study of East Germany from the perspective of a lakeside house.

The property, a sprawling, gothic maze, bears witness to the horrors — and triumphs — of a century. Unsurprisingly, it is touched by the Holocaust and the repression of the Soviet era, but it also quietly heeds events of smaller significance; falling in love, a friendship formed over a summer.