Child of a Turbulent Century (Jewish Lives) by Victor Erlich

By Victor Erlich

Victor Erlich was once born in 1914, on the threshold of what the good Russian poet Anna Akhmatova known as "the actual 20th century," in Petrograd, a spot indelibly marked by means of that century's violent dislocations and upheavals. His tale, all started at the eve of the 1st international conflict and taking him via Russia, Poland, Lithuania, Germany, and the U. S. military, is in lots of methods a memoir of that "real 20th century," reflecting its deadly nature and formed by way of the "fearful symmetry" of the age of totalitarianism. Erlich's grandfather, the mythical Jewish historian Simon Dubnov, used to be felled in December 1941 by way of a Nazi bullet; his father, Henryk Erlich, a pacesetter of the Jewish Bund and a renowned determine in Russian and varnish socialism, took his existence in Stalin's criminal in could 1942. To examine Erlich's existence becoming up on the intersection of the century's darkest currents is to adventure historical past firsthand from the Russian Revolution to the tip of the second one international War-and to understand what it really is to be a toddler of the century.
Erlich inspires what it was once prefer to be a Bundist, the depth of Socialist existence on the time, the considering after the Nazi invasion of Poland-before the pact among Hitler and Stalin grew to become obvious. Figures comparable to Eleanor Roosevelt, Wendel Wilkie, Marc and Bella Chagall make appearances, in addition to the recognized philosopher Tarski, flunking Erlich in math. all through, regardless of the darkness, even the horror, of a lot of what he describes, the writer continues the beguiling tone and the nice and cozy demeanour of 1 who has reached the recent millennium with infrequent and hard-won perception into the human comedy of his time.

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It is noteworthy that Father never pressured me to get in- Between Socialist Politics and Neo-Romantic Literature 33 volved. He seems to have been intrigued by my literary efforts, and, while he must have assumed that sooner or later I would declare myself politically, he wanted me to do so at my own pace. Predictably, my childhood and adolescence were strongly colored by distinctively Bundist themes and concerns. After I had mastered the Hebrew-Yiddish alphabet at the age of thirteen and acquired a rudimentary reading knowledge of Yiddish, I would regularly plow through the pages of the party’s daily paper, Naye Folkstsaytung.

H. 1 A man who felt history in his bones, he was visibly weighed down by the sense of a mounting threat which the rise of Hitler presented to everything he held dear. Victor fully shared Father’s overall assessment of the international situation. But there was something irrepressible about his congenital high spirits. It seemed impossible to get this “happy warrior” down. Alex and I greatly enjoyed Victor Alter’s impromptu visits. For a number of years he lived across the street from us. He would breeze in now and then for a few minutes to share with Mother something interesting or amusing he had just read.

Already in my student days I was prepared to be as anti-Bolshevik as the Bundist traffic would bear. By 1937, my studies at the Free Polish University were drawing to a close. A. thesis, I chose one of the most seminal and controversial literary intellectuals of the period: the brilliant, quirky, fiercely polemical Stanislaw Brzozowski (1878–1911), whose brief and tumultuous career ranged over narrative fiction, philosophy of culture, and literary criticism. I dealt with the latter dimension of his oeuvre.

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