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Moyshelé Rosencrantz,
Maker of Riddles

a collection of skillfully crafted riddles in the Old English style

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Monday Feb 17, 2014

Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis

So what is Persepolis? In stark black-and-white images, it is the autobiographical account of Marjane growing up in troubled times in Iran. She experienced the overthrow of the Shah and the Iranian Revolution at the age of 10, and then lived under the Ayatollah's repressive regime, except for an interlude during high-school in Austria, until she finally left Iran for good at the age of 24. The beauty of the comic is that it manages to capture Marjane's slowly maturing state-of-mind at all these different periods of her life. When she is a child, the story is told from the mind of a child, including her atypical answer to "what do you want to be when you grow up?" "A prophet".

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Monday Jan 20, 2014

Jane Austen and the Jews

A study of blood heritage in Jane Austen’s novels after going through a Jane Austen reading binge (all six novels in one month), and of a related question in Jewish thought today. Two questions are examined: “Who is a gentleman?” and “Who is a Jew?”

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Wednesday May 29, 2013

Christ stopped at Eboli

An Italian friend heard that I liked Primo Levi, and asked me, had I read any works by Primo's cousin, Carlo Levi? I hadn't? Mama mia, it's really worth the read! So when I finally found one of Carlo Levi's books on the shelf of a second-hand bookshop, I didn't hesitate.

The truth is that there's no family relationship between Primo and Carlo Levi, apart from the fairly likely descendance from the same biblical tribe.
Still, there's some degree of resemblance in their excellent writing: dispassionate descriptions of a totally unfamiliar world, with even their own self examined through the eyes of an outsider, the "author". The worlds they describe are worlds apart: Auschwitz and its aftermath for Primo, the small village of Gagliano in Southern Italy for Carlo, where he was exiled by Mussolini's government in the mid 1930's for anti-fascist activity.

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Monday Apr 29, 2013

Mendelssohn is on the Roof

True to the promise made to myself, to write something up after every book I manage to finish, I’ve been on a book fast until I manage to write about the two Czech novels I finished last month: Josef Škvorecký’s “The Tank Battalion” and Jiří Weil’s “Mendelssohn is on the Roof”. Despite being written by fellow countrymen less than ten years apart, it’s hard to imagine two more different novels. I gobbled them up like a hungry stray dog, but was left with an uneasy feeling after both.

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Wednesday Jan 02, 2013

Life with a Star

I continue my series of book reviews related to the Nazi genocide with Jiří Weil's Life with a Star - a fictional novel about a Jewish man, Joseph Roubicek, living in Prague under Nazi domination during the Second World War. My copy, picked up in a second hand bookstore, was translated from the Czech in 1989 by Rita Klímová and Roslyn Schloss. It is one of the most impressive fictional novels based on the Nazi genocide that I've read - and certainly should be considered and studied as a 20th century classic.

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Friday Dec 21, 2012

Hirsch Grunstein's "Psalms"

Here's my second book review, after Milena, regarding the period of the Nazi genocide: Hirsch Grunstein's Psalms. I believe it was a book sent by my parents, who knew of my interest for the period. The book is a memoir of Hirsch Grunstein's early teenage years during the Second World War in Belgium. The Grunsteins were a Jewish family - the parents had immigrated from Poland. As the Nazi rulers tightened their grip on Belgium and began deporting Jews to "work colonies" in the East, most of the country's Jews guessed what was in store for them. Those who could, fled to Switzerland or Vichy France. Many of the others went into hiding. In a country with about 60,000 Jews at the outbreak of the war, approximately 5,000 fled, 25,000 were deported to Auschwitz. The remaining 30,000 were all hidden by individuals or institutions. Hirsch Grunstein belongs to the latter group.

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Tuesday Dec 18, 2012

Old English Literature - a brief introduction

As Irish Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney states in the introduction to his translation of Beowulf, the modern English reader is far more familiar with names such as Achilles or the Cyclops than with Beowulf and Grendel. What a shame that the literature of the old English nations, linguistically so much closer to us English speakers, should be entirely ignored and forgotten. Now, I make no pretence at being any sort of expert in the Anglo-Saxon period or its people, other than having written a book of riddles in the Old English poetic style. And, apart from my riddles, my knowledge is limited to some readings in translation, some brief university studies, and occasional personal research. So, all I will attempt is to give you here is a foretaste of the literature produced in England between the fall of Rome and the Norman Conquest, along with a cursory description of the context within which it was produced, as I understand it.

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Thursday Nov 29, 2012


a book review of Milena, by Margarete Buber-Neumann

I’ve decided to save my impressions of every book I read from oblivion, by writing them down in a book review of sorts. I won’t feign journalistic neutrality: I’ll shamelessly mix in my own experience and sensibility. I picked up Milena while browsing through the shelves of a used bookshop, L’ivre Livre, on a pedestrian street of medieval Foix. As usual, I gravitated towards the sections on history and autobiography. My eye was on the lookout for anything to do with the Nazi concentration camps and genocide.

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