Landscapes of the Metropolis of Death: Reflections on Memory and Imagination (Paperback)Otto Dov Kulka (author)
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Otto Dov Kulka's memoir of a childhood spent in Auschwitz is a literary feat of astounding emotional power, exploring the permanent and indelible marks left by the Holocaust
Winner of the JEWISH QUARTERLY-WINGATE PRIZE 2014
As a child, the distinguished historian Otto Dov Kulka was sent first to the ghetto of Theresienstadt and then to Auschwitz. As one of the few survivors he has spent much of his life studying Nazism and the Holocaust, but always as a discipline requiring the greatest coldness and objectivity, with his personal story set to one side. But he has remained haunted by specific memories and images, thoughts he has been unable to shake off.
Translated by Ralph Mandel.
'The greatest book on Auschwitz since Primo Levi ... Kulka has achieved the impossible' - the panel of Judges, Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Prize
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Number of pages: 144
Weight: 111 g
Dimensions: 198 x 129 x 8 mm
Of the many accounts of survival in the Nazi concentration camps - Jewish and non-Jewish - few approach Otto Dov Kulka's for the quality of its writing and attempt to understand the nature of contemporary barbarism ... one of the essential books of our age; not since Primo Levi's The Periodic Table has there been such a powerful holocaust memoir ... the writing, at times trance-like, creates an extraordinary sense of communion and intimacy with the reader ... in pained but lucid prose Kulka seeks to understand how his memory processed the trauma of Auschwitz * Telegraph *
'A poetic masterpiece unlike anything else written on the subject' * Telegraph BOOKS OF THE YEAR *
This is one of the most remarkable testimonies to inhumanity that I know. The deeply moving recollections of Dov Kulka's boyhood years in Auschwitz, interwoven with reflections of elegiac, poetic quality, vividly convey the horror of the death-camp, the trauma of family and friends, and the indelible imprint left on the memory of a young boy who became a distinguished historian of the Holocaust. An extraordinarily important work which needs to be read
Astonishing ... [Landscapes] is, quite simply, extraordinary ... a sort of Modernist precipitate of a historical work, something strange and powerful formed from, but separate to, the solution of history ... I can't see how this book could be bettered * Times Higher Education *
Almost unclassifiable ... Nothing else I have read comes close to this profound examination of what the Holocaust means ... [Kulka's] journey strikes me as a quest similar to the attempt to describe the face of God or the structure of the universe. They are too vast and too mysterious. Not that this stops us, or this author, from trying * New Statesman *
Primo Levi's testimony, it is often said, is that of a chemist: clear, cool, precise, distant. So with Kulka's work: this is the product of a master historian - ironic, probing, present in the past, able to connect the particular with the cosmic. His memory is in the service of deep historical understanding, rendered in evocative prose that is here eloquently translated from Hebrew * Guardian *
Beautiful, startling ... This is a great book: read it. And be grateful - its publication is, in every possible sense, a miracle ... It is the strange and shocking paradox, this child's world constructed in such proximity to death, that makes the book so startling and so beautiful. Every incident is, in effect, seen twice: through the eyes of the historian and the eyes of a boy ... This is not history, it is something else... his words enter the wider sphere of literature * Sunday Times *
Kulka's reflections have an unsettling rawness ... yet even in Auschwitz, there are moments of protest, black humour and beauty ... This is a grave, poetic and horrifying account of the Holocaust which does not so much revisit the Auschwitz of the past, but the Auschwitz of Kulka's inner world * Independent *
This is not so much a book about Auschwitz as one about coming to terms with the shock of survival ... Amid fragmentary, digressive impressions are images of terrible poetic concreteness ... What, ultimately, makes Kulka's book unlike any other first-hand account written about the camps is the authenticity of its vision of an 11-year-old boy... He has done the rest of us - and the world - so great a kindness by writing his book ... offer[ing] the barest glint of sunlight amid a thunderous darkness * Financial Times *
A book of moments, hauntings and dreams ... it is unremitting and touches us all [with] a hallucinatory power * The Times *
Otto Dov Kulka's brief, beautiful and unsettling Landscapes of the Metropolis of Death brings together childhood memories of Auschwitz with the reflections of a historian who has spent his life working on the Holocaust: a masterly interrogation of memory and the limitations of historical detachment * Times Literary Supplement BOOKS OF THE YEAR *
A historian's memoir of Auschwitz, without sentimentality and almost without outrage, since it is an examination of a place where all human reactions are inadequate ... an overwhelming testimony to the human love of truth * Guardian *
For the first time, [Kulka] has turned his academic eye inward to explore as unflinchingly as possible the ways in which his childhood encounter with Auschwitz has affected him. Landscapes of the Metropolis of Death makes for deeply disturbing but ultimately very rewarding reading, and is unlike any Holocaust memoir I have ever come across ... The book is not a memoir in the conventional sense, but an extraordinary collection of some of the memories, ideas and dreams that make up Kulka's internal landscape * Telegraph *
In this short, powerful memoir, every word tells its story * Daily Mail *
The term memoir barely seems adequate to the introspective, often poetic, sometimes hallucinatory moments that [Landscapes] captures ... such an important contribution to the literature on the Holocaust ... [it] unsettles presuppositions about the camp and its lasting psychological effects so thoroughly that even a reader steeped in the Holocaust canon is likely to experience a sense of defamiliarisation * Sydney Review of Books *
Otto Dov Kulka's name should be as well known as Primo Levi's as a supreme writer of personal experience of the hell of Auschwitz. But his Landscapes of the Metropolis of Death is unlike any other Holocaust writing because it faithfully reproduces the sensibility of the eleven year old boy that Kulka was at the time. So, unnervingly there are blue skies and daring games and actual school classes along with the smell of the smoke of incinerated bodies. More than other writing except Levi's Kulka's book, excavated with great pain via his attempted therapy of memory, sets you, the reader there. It is an imperishable achievement born of strength of mind and body and a kind of glowing inner vitality that I was lucky enough to encounter when I met him a few years ago. Profound scholar, extraordinary writer some part of him remained miraculously boyish in his warm vitality. -- Simon Schama
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