Jakob løgneren

by Jurek Becker
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This fable of a Jewish ghetto during World War II is one of the great literary masterworks of the Holocaust. Published in Germany in 1969, it is only now appearing in an authorized English translation. Concerning a former cafe owner who fabricates the story of the Russian army's inexorable advance on the ghetto, and the liberation that will follow their arrival, the tale has the simple power of myths or dreams. A comic tale of unimaginable tragedy, the novel brings vividly to life the doomed inhabitants of the ghetto: Schmidt, the obtuse assimilationist; the child, Lina, who hunts for Jacob's imaginary radio; Frankfurte,r the formerly obese burgher. And Jacob himself, a storyteller whose inventions become like bread to the others, who finds himself trapped in his growing mesh of lies until he is driven to tell the truth. At the end there are two final passages: one in which the Russians arrive to save the ghetto; and one in which they don't. Who is to distinguish between fact and myth?

First Published


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