October 25, 2016 | Rome, Italy | Clear 22°C
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Bios & Memoirs



In the spirit of "Dr. Strangelove," French novelist Michel Houellebecq puts a brilliantly comic spin on a sensitive topic.

Dear Thief

Samantha Harvey's novel-length letter to a long-lost friend is as brilliant as it is sad.

Tyler's Last

"Tyler's Last" evokes the ghost of Patricia Highsmith in a thriller of global complications.

One Out of Two

Put mischievously spinster twins in a small Mexican city and out come sly laughs.

Fifteen Dogs: An Apologue

André Alexis's stunning "Fifteen Dogs" confers canines with human sensibility, and the greater gift of empathy.

This Census-Taker

China Miéville turns too arcane in his latest foray into the Stonehenge-styled surreal.

Zero K

Don DeLillo's latest future-sprawl, cryonic freezing included, doesn't quite know what it most wants to say.

Swallowed by the Cold

Jensen Beach's 15 stories are set in Sweden and convey equal doses of wisdom and melancholy.


Amelia Gray is adept enough with grotesqueness to make it feel second nature, and that's a gift.

Missing Person

Modiano's slender 1978 psychological thriller remains a superb and disturbing Parisian novel.

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
Day and Boarding International High School in the Heart of Rome

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