Diane Cole |
Special To The Jewish Week
Masada: the very name of the towering mountain fortress overlooking the Judean Desert and the Dead Sea conjures images at once historic, mythic, and symbolic. King Herod built it between 37 and 31 B.C.E. as a royal refuge, and decorated it with splendiferous mosaics. But it is best known as the final refuge of 960 Jewish zealots who, in 73 C.E., committed suicide en masse, rather than succumb to a massacre by besieging Roman soldiers who were part of the army that had already quashed the Jewish rebellion and destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem.
In January 1942, French policemen began a special mission, in collaboration with Nazi officials, to arrest the local Resistance. On their list were dozens of women. They included Germaine Pican, a mother of two, who carried messages between communists in Paris and Rouen; Mai Politzer, a midwife, who dyed her hair black in disguise to type letters for the underground press; and Marie-Claude Vaillant-Coutrier, a photojournalist who wrote articles for a clandestine journal.
That “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the notorious anti-Semitic tract about a Jewish conspiracy to control the world, still has currency in parts of the world today was no deterrent for Umberto Eco. If there was anyone who could get away with a novel about the forged document’s creation, it was Eco. A towering member of Italy’s intellectual elite, he is a man as famed for his works on philosophy as he is for his best-selling novels.
In Amos Oz’s new novel, or more accurately novel-in-short-stories, the sense of dread, of profound existential unease, is unmistakable. No character in Oz’s fictional Israeli village, Tel Ilan, where all the stories in “Scenes from Village Life” are set, is happy. No one is even remotely content with his lot.
A native of Providence, R.I., a son of Arabic and Lithuanian culture, Joseph Braude grew up in two worlds — his Baghdad-born mother’s tales of a childhood in Iraq and his Lithuanian-born grandfather’s Midrash lessons. There were the kasha varnishkes and qar’yie (an Iraqi vegetable dish) at Shabbat meals, and both Sephardic-style and Ashkenazic-style charoset on Passover.
Recognition was never something Edith Pearlman asked for, but she can no longer ignore it. This month, the 75-year-old Jewish writer was named a finalist for the National Book Award in fiction for her latest collection of short stories, “Binocular Vision.” And while Pearlman isn’t exactly dodging the limelight, she’s not going out of her way to bask in it, either.