March 15, 2007
In Spring a reader’s fancy turns to thoughts of ... books
(Page 2 - Previous Page)While he has written articles and books throughout his life, this is the first book he has published. He says that he has really enjoyed the process, and is now working on another memoir about his family's early life in America after World War II.
With an introduction by Richard Holbrooke, "Witness" is a memoir, in words and black-and-white photographs, documenting Gruber's remarkable life and work as an international correspondent, humanitarian, witness to and participant in history. She traveled across the Soviet Arctic in 1935 for the New York Herald Tribune and observed the Soviet gulag firsthand; journeyed to Alaska as an emissary for Harold Ickes, secretary of the interior under Franklin Roosevelt; escorted Jewish war refugees from Europe to America; covered the plight of the Exodus in 1947 and documented the establishment of the State of Israel, among other major events. Included is a photograph of Holocaust survivors, transferred from the Exodus to a prison ship, who painted a swastika on top of the British Union Jack.
Before Gruber was a reporter, she made headlines in 1932 for being "the youngest Ph.D. in the world." Not yet 20 years old, she wrote her dissertation on a little-known British author named Virginia Woolf. Gruber now lives in New York City.
Other Spring Reads
"Preliminaries" by S. Yizhar, translated by Nicholas DeLange with an introduction by Dan Miron (Toby Press, May, $24.95) is a long-awaited posthumous debut, the first work by the distinguished late Israeli novelist to be translated into English. The richly detailed autobiographical novel follows the life of a young boy growing up in a Jewish agricultural community in Palestine and in Tel Aviv, from 1917 to 1930. His coming-of-age parallels the story of the land of Israel in those times.
Yizhar, who died last year, received all of Israel's major awards, including the Israel Prize; he had also been a member of Knesset and a professor at Hebrew University. In many ways, he was considered a father to the generation of writers including Amos Oz, David Grossman and A.B. Yehoshua. Oz has said, "There is some of Yizhar in every writer who has come after him."
"A Tranquil Star: Unpublished Stories of Primo Levi," translated by Ann Goldstein and Alessandra Bastagli (Norton, April, $21.95), is to be published on the 20th anniversary of the writer's death. The 17 collected stories were published in Italian between 1949 and 1986. While known for his writings about the Holocaust and his autobiographical work "The Periodic Table," Levi also wrote many stories and essays, even before his deportation, and continued to write until his sudden death in 1987. The title story is about a thoughtful astronomer, living in fear that a long-dormant star might explode. The earliest story in the book, "The Death of Marinese," is about a partisan fighter captured by the Germans.
A comic novel, "My Holocaust" by Tova Reich (HarperCollins, April, $24.95) satirizes the exploitation of Holocaust memory, political correctness and the culture of victimization. Maurice Messer, a survivor, and his son run Holocaust Connections Inc., a company capitalizing on their connection to the Holocaust and marketing all things connected to the atrocity with legendary success. But Maurice's granddaughter becomes a nun at the Carmelite convent adjacent to Auschwitz, and Maurice then leads efforts to found a Holocaust Museum. Reich is the award-winning author of several novels, including "Mara" and "The Jewish War."
"The Ministry of Special Cases" by Nathan Englander (Knopf, May, $25) is a first novel by the writer who made his literary debut with the award-winning collection of stories, "For the Relief of Unbearable Urges." Set in Buenos Aires in 1976, this historical novel depicts a family headed by an outcast who makes his living defacing Jewish gravestones. Along with his wife, he is summoned to the dismal offices of the Ministry of Special Cases. Englander writes about the fate of those who disappeared in Argentina in the 1970s and about the fate of the Jews.
Englander will speak in Los Angeles on May 21, 7 p.m., at the Los Angeles Public Library, 630 W. Fifth St., Los Angeles.
Sandee Brawarsky is book critic for The Jewish Week
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