Academic journal article Shofar

Bambi's Jewish Roots and Other Essays on German-Jewish Culture

Academic journal article Shofar

Bambi's Jewish Roots and Other Essays on German-Jewish Culture

Article excerpt

BAMBI'S JEWISH ROOTS AND OTHER ESSAYS ON GERMAN-JEWISH CULTURE By Paul Reitter. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015. 282 pp.

In his preface to Bambi's Jewish Roots and Other Essays on German-Jewish Culture, expert on German Jewish culture Paul Reitter provides an intriguing explanation of how he came to write a number of nonacademic (but intellectually oriented) review essays, noting that, among other reasons, the kinds of journalistic impulses he was studying for his dissertation on Karl Kraus motivated him to try his own hand at the genre. The project thus evolved from Reitter's deep interest in, passion for, and knowledge about journalistic writing on German Jewish culture, culminating in the present remarkable volume. Before they came together in this collection, many of Reitter's essays were published previously in some of the literary world's most respectable review venues, such as the Jewish Review of Books, London Review of Books, New York Review of Books, and Times Literary Supplement. In these essays, Reitter thoughtfully tackles issues with implications that extend well beyond his immediate subject, for example, the nature of the biographical genre, the challenges involved in translation, and the parameters of Holocaust literature. In addition, he models the writing of balanced and fair book reviews (and at times, reviews of reviews) that do not shy away from pointed criticism when warranted.

The volume's twenty-six essays are grouped logically into six parts: "SelfReflections," "Legendary Lives," "Beyond the Canon," "Renderings," "Studying German Jewry," and "The End." The essay on Gershom Scholem in part 1 exemplifies the natural storytelling style that makes Reitter's writing such a compelling read, as he provides historical and biographical context (in this case by examining Scholem's diaries and memoir, sometimes including some of his own psychological speculation) before going into detail about the secondary literature he is reviewing. His intimate knowledge of the subjects at hand allows Reitter to not simply review the books at a superficial level but to provide a thorough analysis of them as well. In this case, the work under review is Anthony David Skinner's translation of Scholem's diaries entitled Lamentations of Youth. Here, as in the other reviews in the volume, Reitter offers context, clarifications, and corrections (in this case regarding apparent mistranslations or questionable translating choices), while also lauding the strengths of the work. …

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