Book Review: Illegal Journey by Edgar Miskin

March 23, 2014

From the Life in Israel blogIllegalJourneyWeb2

Illegal Journey is a historical novel, which in my book is an immediate plus. You get to read an enjoyable story while learning about a point in history at the same time. And when the book is written well, when the history is portrayed and the story is riveting, then it is just a great book. As is Illegal Journey.

Illegal Journey is set in Europe, Palestine and eventually Israel. It describes, through its story, the history of illegal immigration from post-war Europe into Palestine. While I am not aware of this story actually having happened – as far as I can tell it is fiction – but it does show what the Jewish survivors of the concentration camps had to go through to get to Palestine, and how they were often turned away by the British.

In Illegal Journey, a gentile in Switzerland becomes aware of a group of Jews in a hospital recovering from what they suffered in the concentration camps. He was so shocked by what he saw that he “adopted” this group and found ways to help them. Eventually this led to his devising a plan to help them sneak into Palestine. Peters drops everything and commits himself completely to this project and becomes very close with the entire group. He even decides to join them in going to Palestine, and so he does.

I don’t want to give away much of the story, because while it is a historical novel, it is also Read the rest of this entry »

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Book Review: Herod: The Man Who Had To Be King

December 8, 2013

Herod The Man Who Had To Be King

From the Life in Israel blog:

This book, “Herod: The Man Who Had To Be King” is not a history book, but a novel. It is an historic novel, where the story is based on the actual history, but some parts are made up and details are made up as poetic license, but as stated in the introduction, Shulewitz, as a historian who spent much of his work researching Herod, insisted that all facts available be included in the story and he minimized his use of poetic license. Shulewitz did use imagination to fill in some gaps, but the story itself is very true to history.

Yehuda Shulewitz was born and raised in Peoria, Illinois. That makes us practically landsmen.

For some background, from his bio in the book – Yehuda (Louis) Shulewitz moved to pre-state Israel in 1947 to study Jewish history at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He had previously received a degree in economics from the University of Illinois and served in the U.S. military in Europe during WWII.

The murder of the Hadassah medical staff on its way to Mount Scopus and the subsequent Arab invasion of the nascent Jewish state put his studies on hold. Yehuda remained alone and hungry in a friend’s Jerusalem apartment during the siege of the city. Later, he courageously made his way over the hills until he reached Tel Aviv, exhausted but safe. There he enlisted in Mahal — the overseas volunteer regiment of the Israel army.

After Israel’s War of Independence, Shulewitz returned to his beloved Jerusalem and, apart from occasional visits abroad, continued to live there until his passing in 2007. An observant Jew and gifted writer, his published materials include articles, short stories, and academic papers, as well as radio scripts, which were broadcast in many different languages. He also worked as the English editor of the Bank of Israel.

Following his retirement, Yehuda Shulewitz researched and wrote this historical novel set during the Herodian period in the largely Roman-dominated Mediterranean region of that time.

The book is fascinating. It is not a Read the rest of this entry »


Kaytek the Wizard Receives Honorable Mention in the 2013 Science Fiction and Fantasy in Translation Award!

August 28, 2013

Kaytek the WizardKaytek the Wizard (written by Janusz Korczak, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones, illustrated by Avi Katz) received a Long Form Honorable Mention in the 2013 Science Fiction and Fantasy in Translation Award!

Reviews from the award website:

Alexis Brooks de Vita found Kaytek the Wizard “sublimely poignant, as painful as it is raw, so obviously written by a man who loves childhood and children and uses fantasy to prepare them—and us—for fatality as well as mortality. Huckleberry Finn more than Tom Sawyer, reaching across a century-and-a-half to conjure Harry Potter, Kaytek’s loner protagonist finally becomes not only Frankenstein but his self-created monster, a childish Melmoth the Wanderer, made wise enough to have become capable of conveying the author’s historically heartbreaking final lines.”

Kathryn Morrow added, “This is a fresh, sophisticated, and psychologically authentic exemplar of the Bildungsroman type of fantasy. The author’s unique sensibility is well served by Lloyd-Jones’s lively translation.”


Dr. Joshua Golding, Author of The Conversation, Responds to Book Review Comments

June 20, 2013

From Life in Israel:The Conversation

Last week I wrote a book review of The Conversation, by Joshua Golding.

I now have the honor of hosting Dr. Golding’s response to my review, discussing some of the issues I raised and questioned in my review.

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Joshua Golding responds:

 As the author of The Conversation I’d like to express my great thanks to Rafi G for posting a review of my book on his blog! Its nice to read a review where you can tell that the reviewer “got” what the book is all about: a philosophical journey in the form of a novel. However, I did want to respond to a few of his critical comments on certain aspects of the story.
First of all, I do see the main character David as “discussing philosophy himself, and arguing with others.”  From the beginning of the book, he thinks and speaks  critically about what he is being told by his friends, professors and the Rabbis with whom he comes in contact. The development of David’s own views comes gradually in his journal, which grows and deepens in complexity over time. Also, toward the very end of the book, in a conversation held during his senior year graduation party, David really blossoms by suggesting his own view about the nature of wisdom. As the book develops from the beginning of his freshman year to his senior year, David critically sifts through many of the views and arguments he has heard, and develops his own unique approach to things. At the end of the book, David makes an important decision which is driven partly by emotional factors but also by his philosophical journey that has taken place over four years’ time.
As far as his relationship with Esther, what I intended there was that while at the beginning David is interested in Esther primarily because he is attracted to her, as their acquaintance grows he actually becomes more interested in her as a friend, precisely because he comes to know her as a person rather than just as a pretty thing. On the other hand, while Esther at first has no romantic interest in David, gradually as she comes to know him better as someone who is sincerely interested in really learning about Judaism, she comes to Read the rest of this entry »

Remembering Janusz Korczak, Anew

June 5, 2013

by Sandee Brawarsky Kaytek the Wizard

At the recent Jerusalem Book Fair, with many publishers from all over the world showcasing their new titles, it was Janusz Korczak who caught my attention.

Born in 1878, Korczak was a distinguished Polish-Jewish writer, educator and pediatrician. In 1923, he established an orphanage in Warsaw, which became well-known for his progressive ideas about child development and moral education. When the Nazis occupied Warsaw, his orphanage was moved to the ghetto, and when the Nazis later ordered that the orphanage be evacuated, Korczak chose deportation along with his children rather than saving himself. I’ve seen remarkable documentary footage of Korczak, with great dignity and kindness, marching the 200 children to the train that would take all of them to their deaths in Treblinka. Korczak was killed in August 1942.

Like Anne Frank, he left behind a diary, along with outstanding books for and about children, plays, essays and works on innovative education. His novel “King Matt the First” is a classic, telling of a boy king who tried to bring about reform.

Two of Korczak’s books are newly available, in illustrated editions, one in English and one in Hebrew.
Originally published in 1933, “Kaytek the Wizard” (Penlight Publications) is available in English for the first time. Designed to entertain and educate, this is the story of a mischievous schoolboy who discovers that he has great magical skills, but ultimately learns that with these powers come responsibility. Antonia Lloyd-James, the translator, points out in an afterword that Korczak wrote this in consultation with the orphanage children. The book is great reading for children and their parents, with illustrations by Avi Katz.

Korczak believed that Read the rest of this entry »


The Search Committee: Not Quite “a Novel”

April 18, 2013

From Shiloh Musings:The Search Committee high res

When I was at the recent Jerusalem International Book Fair, I was offered books to review by a couple of publishing houses.  UrimPublications.com told me to just take a few from their stand, which I did.  One of them is The Search Committee- a novel, by Marc Angel.  When I took it, I didn’t check the copyright date or I would have had discovered that the book is far from recent.  It was published in  2008.

I’ll start with the good…
The book is easy and quick reading, and the main topic is thought-provoking.

Now, why have I titled this “Not Quite a novel?”  Honestly, I don’t see it as a novel.  Here’s the definition of a novel from dictionary.com:

1.

a fictitious prose narrative of considerable length and complexity,portraying characters and usually presenting a sequential organization of action and scenes.

The book does not have any real scenes, actions, character development etc. And there is certainly no “complexity.”

Simply put, Marc Angel,  “Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Shearith Israel of New York City and founder of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals. He is the author and editor of over two dozen books, and this is his first work of fiction,” has tried to humanize two extreme trends/ideologies in American Jewish Orthodoxy aka Torah Judaism.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he hasn’t published a lot about the same exact issue as non-fiction.

In Angel’s opinion there’s a danger to Orthodox Jewry if Read the rest of this entry »


Hadassah Magazine Review of Kaytek the Wizard

November 1, 2012

Kaytek the Wizard

Harry Potter, step aside. The young hero of Kaytek the Wizard by Janusz Korczak (illustrated by Avi Katz; translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones; Penlight Publications, 272 pp. $17.95) has sufficient power to transform his gluttonous classmate’s breakfast into a frog and then to soar skyward and land on the roof of a Warsaw tram. As his proficiency at magic increases, he explores a complex cosmos, interacting with Africans and Americans and zooming across oceans and continents.

The author is the legendary Holocaust hero who voluntarily accompanied the Jewish children of his orphanage to Treblinka. This first English publication of his enduring classic grants Korczak a posthumous victory of a kind. Readers will learn that boy wizards, like all children, must tread carefully as they navigate their way through a complex world.

From Hadassah Magazine