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Farewell, Shanghai
     

Farewell, Shanghai

by Angel Wagenstein, Elizabeth Frank (Translator), Deliana Simeonova (Translator)
 

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Selected as a runner-up in the 2007 National Jewish Book Award category for fiction.

The unforgettable novel of nearly forgotten refugees who fled Nazi Germany and discovered the glamour and excess of Shanghai.Elisabeth and Theodore Weissberg, famous musicians, Hilde, a young film extra, and Vladek, an Eastern European adventurer wanted by the police on political

Overview

Selected as a runner-up in the 2007 National Jewish Book Award category for fiction.

The unforgettable novel of nearly forgotten refugees who fled Nazi Germany and discovered the glamour and excess of Shanghai.Elisabeth and Theodore Weissberg, famous musicians, Hilde, a young film extra, and Vladek, an Eastern European adventurer wanted by the police on political charges, flee Nazi Germany for Shanghai at the onset of World War II. A magnet for every human ambition and vice, Shanghai is a city of extremes—of dazzling wealth and wretched poverty, suffering and pleasure, and, for the four refugees, exile and safety. There, they enter the world of Jewish refugees, many of them artists and intellectuals, who must either starve or eke out an impoverished and sometimes degraded living, but they are determined to live intelligently, upholding the high culture, humor, and even, insofar as they can, the elegance of their former lives. Master storyteller Angel Wagenstein crafts an intense narrative of life and death, passionate love, and profound courage against the backdrop of the war and the millions of lives caught up in it.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Moving effortlessly from Paris to Dresden to Shanghai, Wagenstein (Isaac's Torah) masterfully chronicles the lives of European émigrés and refugees in WWII Shanghai. The cast of this ensemble novel is large. Elisabeth and Theodore Weissberg, a German mezzo-soprano and her German-Jewish virtuoso violinist husband, flee Dresden to eke out an existence in Shanghai's burgeoning Jewish ghetto, which ends up 30,000 strong as the Shoah begins. Hilde Braun, a German-Jewish actress, is living illegally in Paris aided by a mysterious Slav named Vladek, until events force them, separately, to Shanghai. Istvan Keleti, a homosexual Hungarian musician and drug-user, and Gertrude von Dammbach, a former call-girl-turned-baroness, are also among the persecuted and displaced, some of whom work with the Resistance to undermine Hitler. Wagenstein is impressive in his ability to move from the small details of individual displaced lives to a larger panorama of international intrigue: there's a telling subplot about tensions between the Japanese, who occupy Shanghai, and the Germans, with whom they've formed an uneasy alliance; another revealing thread concerns the loyalties of Chinese Catholic nuns. Wagenstein brings to life a largely unknown chapter of Nazi persecution. (Nov.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

A large cast of characters inhabits this historical novel by decorated Bulgarian author Wagenstein (Isaac's Torah). Set in Shanghai prior to World War II, it recounts the true story of how thousands of European Jews were forced to flee their home countries as Hitler's power grew. As more and more borders closed, there remained a place willing to give them shelter, if not comfort: Shanghai. The novel begins with a haunting scene: the Dresden Philharmonic plays Haydn's Farewell Symphony, and as each musician ritually exits the stage, he is taken into custody by German authorities. Theodore Weissberg, the symphony's gifted violinist, and his wife are just two of the many refugees who flood into Shanghai seeking freedom, only to find that their salvation comes with a name-the Hongku ghetto. Wagenstein intelligently interweaves the voices of several characters, whose common thread is their desire to live in safety. Winner of the 2004 Jean Monnet Award, this novel sheds light on a forgotten part of history that is only now becoming known. Recommended.
—Marika Zemke

Kirkus Reviews
Part history lesson, part potboiler, Bulgarian writer Wagenstein's novel, his first to be published in English, shows Jewish refugees struggling to survive in a Far East sanctuary. On Nov. 10, 1938, esteemed Dresden Philharmonic violinist Theodore Weissberg is one of many Jews arrested during the Kristallnacht pogrom. Weissberg's Aryan wife, celebrated singer Elisabeth Muller-Weissberg, will have to purchase his release from Dachau using her jewelry and her body. In Paris, Jewish actress Hilde Braun, whose blonde Aryan good looks have been noticed by Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, decides not to go back to Germany. All three characters, and thousands more desperate Jews from Germany and Austria, are destined to end up in Shanghai, "the very last open city in the world," as World War II roars across Europe. Mainly congregated in the Hongku district, the Europeans find themselves in a noisy, chaotic human ant colony. Plumbing is primitive, and young Chinese fascists attack Jewish property. Worse follows when the Japanese, who already occupy the city, formally join forces with Germany and Italy, then force the Jews into a ghetto. The novel teems with characters but relies on historical facts for much of its impetus. It's frequently trite and often very dark: One main character commits suicide, another is tortured to death for helping her mysterious lover photograph documents. A patchy combination of terrible truth and predictable romance that falls short of the tragic impact the real story deserves.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781590512548
Publisher:
Other Press, LLC
Publication date:
11/06/2007
Pages:
368
Product dimensions:
5.52(w) x 8.69(h) x 1.20(d)

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

Angel Wagenstein

Angel Wagenstein is a prizewinning Bulgarian novelist. His novel, Isaac’s Torah, has been published in Bulgaria, Germany, Russia, France, the Czech Republic, and is forthcoming from Handsel Books. Farewell, Shanghai, his third novel, won the Jean Monnet award in 2004. Also by this author: Isaac's Torah

Deliana Simeonova

Deliana Simeonova was born in Bulgaria and studied English philology and American literature at the University of Sofia. She has worked for civil-society NGOs in Tajikistan, Serbia, Liberia, and now does that work in her native Bulgaria. Also by this author: Isaac's Torah

Elizabeth Frank

Elizabeth Frank is a Professor of Modern Languages and Literature at Bard College. Also by this author: Isaac's Torah

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