‘A gripping detective story, a stirring epic, a tale of ghosts and dark marvels, a thrilling display of scholarship, a meditation on the unfathomable mystery of good and evil, “The Lost” is as complex and rich with meaning and story as the past it seeks to illuminate. A beautiful book, beautifully written.’ Michael Chabon
In this rich and riveting narrative, a writer's search for the truth behind his family's tragic past in World War II becomes a remarkably original epic – part memoir, part reportage, part mystery, and part scholarly detective work – that brilliantly explores the nature of time and memory, family and history.
‘The Lost’ begins as the story of a boy who grew up in a family haunted by the disappearance of six relatives during the Holocaust – an unmentionable subject that gripped his imagination from earliest childhood. Decades later, spurred by the discovery of a cache of desperate letters written to his grandfather in 1939 and tantalized by the fragmentary tales of a terrible betrayal, Daniel Mendelsohn sets out to find the remaining eyewitnesses to his relative's fates. That quest eventually takes him to a dozen countries on four continents, and forces him to confront the wrenching discrepancies between the histories we live and the stories we tell. And it leads him, finally, back to the small Ukrainian town where his family's story began, and where the solution to a decades-old mystery awaits him.
Deftly moving between past and present, interweaving a world-wandering odyssey with childhood memories of a now-lost generation of immigrant Jews, and provocative ruminations on biblical texts and Jewish history, ‘The Lost’ transforms the story of one family into a profound, morally searching meditation on our fragile hold on the past. Deeply personal, grippingly suspenseful, and beautifully written, this literary tour de force illuminates all that is lost, and found, in the passage of time.
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Starred Review. As a boy in the 1960s, Mendelsohn could make elderly relatives cry just by entering the room, so much did he resemble his great-uncle Shmiel Jäger, who had been "killed by the Nazis." This short phrase was all Mendelsohn knew of his maternal grandfather Abraham's brother, who had remained with his wife and four daughters in the Ukrainian shtetl of Bolechow after Abraham left for America. Long obsessed with family history, Mendelsohn (The Elusive Embrace) embarked in 2001 on a series of journeys to learn exactly what had happened to Shmiel and his family. The result is a rich, ruminative "mythic narrative... about closeness and distance, intimacy and violence, love and death." Mendelsohn uses these words to describe the biblical story of Cain and Abel, for one of the book's most striking elements is the author's recounting of the book of Genesis in parallel with his own story, highlighting eternal themes of origins and family, temptation and exile, brotherly betrayal, creation and annihilation. In Ukraine, Australia, Israel and Scandinavia, Mendelsohn locates a handful of extraordinary, aged Bolechow survivors. Especially poignant is his relationship with novelist Louis Begley's 90-year-old mother, from a town near the shtetl, an irascible, scene-stealing woman who eagerly follows Mendelsohn's remarkable effort to retrieve her lost world. B&w photos, maps.Product Description:
Begins as the story of a boy who grew up in a family haunted by the disappearance of six relatives during the Holocaust, an unmentionable subject that gripped his imagination from earliest childhood.
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