“Incredible . . . Inspiring . . . Important.” —Library Journal, starred review “A marvelous yarn, loaded with near-calamitous adventures and characters as memorable as Singer creations.” —The New York Post “What began as a quixotic journey was also a picaresque romp, a detective story, a profound history lesson, and a poignant evocation of a bygone world.” —The Boston Globe “Every now and again a book with near-universal appeal comes along: Outwitting History is just such a book.” —The Sunday Oregonian As a twenty-three-year-old graduate student, Aaron Lansky set out to save the world’s abandoned Yiddish books before it was too late. Today, more than a million books later, he has accomplished what has been called “the greatest cultural rescue effort in Jewish history.” In Outwitting History, Lansky shares his adventures as well as the poignant and often laugh-out-loud stories he heard as he traveled the country collecting books. Introducing us to a dazzling array of writers, he shows us how an almost-lost culture is the bridge between the old world and the future—and how the written word can unite everyone who believes in the power of great literature. A Library Journal Best Book A Massachusetts Book Award Winner in Nonfiction An ALA Notable Book
Brand: Algonquin Books
First paperback edn.
Used Book in Good Condition
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book really took me back and got me thinking again about my family's heritage. There was so much that my grandparents and great-aunts/uncles DIDN'T talk about - and this book gave me a bit of insight into what their experience might have been like. I attended a Workmen's Circle school as a child, and learned a great deal about my Jewish and Yiddish heritage. We were culturally Jewish (as opposed to religiously). This book helped to fill in some blanks.
In addition, the stories of Mr. Lansky's collecting experiences were wonderful and I was sorry when the book ended. I loved meeting people who reminded me of my relatives, now long gone.
Aaron Lansky’s Outwitting History presents an interesting counter-trend to modern habits of reading: in an age when physical books are being less and less read, Lansky has spent his whole life rescuing Yiddish books.
Lansky’s account of rescuing the literature of a quickly dying language has both sad and triumphant overtones. As he first starts collecting Yiddish books, many Yiddish writers and readers are alive, if not old, and Lansky gets to see glimpses of their world. As an American Jew, Lansky knows what he has missed: the world of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Yiddish, working together to form a seamless world.
Through Herculean effort, Lanksy and others eventually create the Yiddish Book Center, a home to a million and a half Yiddish books. Yet that world is gone, and after the Center is built, Lansky has some interesting and sad things to say about Jewish continuity, or the lack thereof.
All in all, this is a fascinating book that...
In reading Lansky's book, I experienced the similar thrill of an evening of going from one Jewish home to another eating the first superb meal followed by an extravaganza of delectable dishes in the next homes, and then mouth watering desserts at yet another home. These extraordinary feasts represent the outstanding features of Lansky's book. He examines the Yiddish language, culture and diversity, and all who have contributed to making these important aspects of Judaism persevere over centuries. He brought to life Jewish writers, scholars, philosophers, politicians, artists, philanthropists, comedians, artists, survivors of the Holocaust, ordinary Jews living decent lives, and decades of Jews lost in pogroms, ousted from almost every country in the world, despised, vilified, tortured and ultimately put to death. Lansky accomplished this with poignancy, intelligent writing, and humor. All of the idiosyncrasies and concerns of his characters, real people with names and places, made for...
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