I don’t often swoon in public, but the Morgan Library’s current exhibition “Marks of Genius: Treasures from the Bodleian Library” left me breathless. It was dizzying, standing before 57 magnificent artifacts representing 2,000 years of intellectual and artistic accomplishment, from cultures, countries and religious traditions that ranged from around the world in place and time. And among them are several of particular Jewish interest.
One of the most overused adjectives in English is probably “kafkaesque,” a word that denotes a surreal, nightmarish, overly bureaucratic situation, but no one can complain if that word is applied to a video game that will be released this year – the Franz Kafka Videogame.
Timing is everything: Given this year’s High Holy Days schedule, along with the renewed rush that arrives after Labor Day, coordinating a Sunday evening in September for our first synagogue Book Group meeting of the season proved more challenging than choosing what we would read, which we’d discussed before our summer break. Thus it happened that the only Sunday available was the one that fell between the Ten Days, after Rosh HaShanah and two evenings prior to Yom Kippur. Our reading selection: “Metamorphosis” and other stories by Franz Kafka.
As they reach maturity, children sometimes feel obliged to pour out their resentment and rage toward their parents, whom they blame for the deficiencies of their childhood. In his vituperative “Letter to My Father,” the Czech Jewish writer Franz Kafka excoriates his father for abusing him both physically and psychologically.
Centenarian Alice Herz-Sommer, the subject of two books, credits music with sustaining her at Terezin; other new Holocaust books also highlight women’s experiences.
Jewish Week Book Critic
At 108, Alice Herz-Sommer is believed to be the oldest living Holocaust survivor. Born in Prague, she watched her mother being deported to Terezin in 1942, and never saw her again. A year later, she was also deported there with her husband and son. By then, Herz-Sommer was an acclaimed pianist, and continued to play in the concentration camp, giving more than a hundred concerts to fellow prisoners and to the Nazis. Her husband was killed in the camp just before liberation.
Last week I wrote about the ongoing battle over Chaim Grade's literary estate. Then on Sunday, The New York Times Magazine had a front-pager on Kafka's estate, which the National Library of Israel wants. But which the descendants of Max Brod, who Kafka gave his papers to and told him to destroy, remain tied up in a ca