Hermann Broch's novel of the life and times of a 1920s mathematician is sadly overlooked.
Lydia Davis has a problem: she can't not display her ingenious bravura.
What's most impressive about Teju Cole's debut is its modulated darkness.
Irish writer Keith Ridgway is beautifully uncompromising in his pitch-perfect thug chronicles.
Amos Oz's interlocking stories are parables for a brilliant, haunted nation.
Irishman Flan O'Brien managed to introduce Disney to Swift in a comic vision of death.
Ben Lerner's 2011 debut set a fine tone for postmodern irony, but it grows repetitive.
Ross MacDonald's Lew Archer endures as a detective ahead of his time.
Denis Johnson's novel of spies in Africa falls well short of its Graham Greene-Le Carré mark.
Aleksandar Hemon's poignant memoir falters when family tragedy becomes its focus.
Jews and Power
By Ruth R. Wisse
Schocken Books, 2007. 231 pages
This book could alternately have carried the title "Jews Without Power," as it primarily investigates the question, "How did the Jews get to figure so prominently in the sights of precisely those regimes that threaten the rest of the world?"
Wisse prods for answers in the Book of Esther, finding in its notorious lack of any reference to God the kernel of modern Zionism: if Jews are to survive, they'd better take things into their own hands. She doesn't dwell on detail, but rather barrels through the last twenty-five hundred years of history illuminating significant examples of how the Jews survived despite so many adversaries pitted to destroy them. For a nation lacking a country, a means to self-defense and political sovereignty, this was not a simple matter. They had to be useful to those in charge, and they were. But tolerance is temporary, and Jews proved a useful scapegoat whenever one was needed.
The list of pogroms and expulsions is endless, and Wisse finds much to criticize even today among Israel's detractors, who have ensured that the Jewish State assumes the status of — in Alan Dershowitz's phrase — "Jew of the world." By ceaselessly assaulting Israel's legitimacy, they divert attention from their own abuses of power. To scapegoat the Jews is — Wisse reminds us — anti-Semitism, "arguably the most protean force in international politics."
Reviewed by Marc Alan Di Martino