Good Read: Jakob the Liar by Jurek Becker
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During the Holocaust, one man’s “small” lie gives false hope to his ghetto community. Originally published in 1969, and the basis of an Academy-Award-nominated film, this classic work comes now in a new translation by acclaimed translator Leila Vennewitz. Author Jurek Becker is a Holocaust survivor and one of few novelists of Jewish heritage living in Germany today.
John Griffin says:
“In a Polish ghetto toward the end of the war, Jakob finds himself in a rather untenable position when he casually mentions to friends that he heard of the Russian advance on his radio. This brings such unwarranted hope to his community that it soon becomes burdensome for him to keep up the string of good news. But Jakob eventually realizes that the hope his lies bring is as important as food for everyone’s survival. Our omniscient narrator gives us a wonderful variety of characters, but never allows us to believe that surviving on hope could be the same as an actual miracle. The tale never strays far from the utter all-encompassing terror that is life within the ghetto, yet the inhabitants somehow mitigate that hell with humor and kindness. Jakob the Liar reminds us that civilization is in a constant struggle with inhumanity, but somehow, seemingly against the odds, it muddles through.”