The Inveterate Dreamer: Essays and Conversations on Jewish Culture

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9780803292789: The Inveterate Dreamer: Essays and Conversations on Jewish Culture

Not only do "modern" Jewish languages like Yiddish and Hebrew have their own Jewish writers, but every major Western tongue—from German and Russian to English and Portuguese—does as well. These writers are often at the crossroad between the two traditions: their Jewish one and their own national one. Is there such a thing as a modern Jewish literary tradition, one navigating across linguistic and national lines? If so, how should one define it? Ilan Stavans is uniquely qualified to answer these questions and to comment on the power and challenges of cultural margins and literary crossings. He has been at the forefront of an appreciation of the Jewish literary tradition that is less asphyxiating, more global. His reflections on Jewish Latin America have won him the nickname "pathfinder." This incomparable volume showcases Stavans's most insightful and provocative—and at times controversial—observations on transnational Jewish culture and literature. Stavans explores the problems and prospects of representing Jewish experiences through such media as Holocaust memoirs and Jewish museums; astutely comments on well-known intellectual figures, including Lionel Trilling, Isaac Babel, Primo Levi, Harold Bloom, and Walter Benjamin; engages in memorable conversations with Norman Manea, Joseph Brodsky, and Ariel Dorfman; and offers compelling glimpses of revelatory moments in his own life.

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Not only do "modern" Jewish languages like Yiddish and Hebrew have their own Jewish writers, but every major Western tongue -- from German and Russian to English and Portuguese -- does as well. These writers are often at the crossroad between the two traditions: their Jewish one and their own national one. Is there such a thing as a modern Jewish literary tradition, one navigating across linguistic and national lines? If so, how should one define it?

An Ashkenazic Jew who grew up in Mexico, Ilan Stavans is uniquely qualified to answer these questions and to comment on the power and challenges of cultural margins and literary crossings. This incomparable volume showcases Stavans's most insightful and provocative observations on modern Jewish culture and literature. Stavans explores the problems and prospects of representing Jewish experiences through such media as Holocaust memoirs and Jewish museums; astutely comments on well-known intellectual figures, including Lionel Trilling, Primo Levi, Harold Bloom, and Walter Benjamin; engages in memorable conversations with Norman Manea, Joseph Brodsky, and Ariel Dorfman; and offers compelling glimpses of revelatory moments in his own life.

About the Author:

A professor of Spanish, Jewish studies, and creative writing at Amherst College, Ilan Stavans has been described as "one of our foremost cultural critics" by the Washington Post and "a canon-maker" by the Chronicle of Higher Education. He is the author or editor of numerous works, including Mutual Impressions, The Hispanic Condition, and The Oxford Book of Jewish Stories.

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