Overview

In this memoir and extended meditation on Jewish identity and anti-Semitic stereotypes written in France in the early 1960s, Albert Memmi paints a portrait of himself as a secular Jew. The book has been compared to Rousseau’s Confessions because of its meticulous self-examination. Written only 15 years after the end of the Nazi occupation and just over a decade after the establishment of the State of Israel, Portrait of a Jew is a snapshot in time as well as a work of psychology and sociology. It both questions ...
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Portrait of a Jew

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Overview

In this memoir and extended meditation on Jewish identity and anti-Semitic stereotypes written in France in the early 1960s, Albert Memmi paints a portrait of himself as a secular Jew. The book has been compared to Rousseau’s Confessions because of its meticulous self-examination. Written only 15 years after the end of the Nazi occupation and just over a decade after the establishment of the State of Israel, Portrait of a Jew is a snapshot in time as well as a work of psychology and sociology. It both questions prevailing myths about the Jews of his time and describes the reality Memmi sees. Its sequel is The Liberation of the Jew.


Portrait of a Jew and The Liberation of the Jew “form a whole: the beginning and the outcome of a passionate quest. The first offers a diagnosis, the second a remedy. [...] Both are written with moving sincerity [...] As a personal document, Memmi’s introspective study is valuable. Thought-provoking and disturbing in the best sense of the word, it allows us to look into the tormented mind and soul of a distinguished Jewish writer who aspires to live honestly while belonging simultaneously to two worlds. His doubts and affirmations carry the weight of testimony.” — Elie Wiesel, The New York Times

“Portrait of a Jew and The Liberation of the Jew [are] filled with a Jewish existentialism marked by quest for identity and self-affirmation far more psychological and sociological than traditionally religious.” — Richard Locke, The New York Times

“A bitter, plangent autobiography written in dark colors and minor chords. It is purgative and painful reading, for it angers, outrages, and reduces the reader to lonely verbal combats. But when the din and dust has died away, the questions and statements are still there asserting themselves.” — Henrietta Buckmaster, The Christian Science Monitor
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Product Details

  • BN ID: 2940015949834
  • Publisher: Plunkett Lake Press
  • Publication date: 1/30/2013
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 326
  • File size: 279 KB

Meet the Author

Albert Memmi was born in Tunisia in 1920, the second of thirteen children of a poor, working-class Arabic-speaking Jewish family. He learned French in his Jewish elementary school and attended Lycée Carnot in Tunis. When the Nazis invaded Tunisia during World War II, he was unable to continue his studies and interned in a labor camp. He moved to Paris in 1945 where he met Germaine Dubach, a Catholic, whom he married in 1946. The couple moved back to Tunis, where two of their three children were born, and where Memmi taught high school philosophy and helped found a publication that would later become Jeune Afrique.

His first novel, The Pillar of Salt with a preface by Albert Camus, appeared in 1953. After Tunisia became independent in 1956, Memmi — a prominent leftist and Jew — returned to Paris where he has lived ever since. During the Algerian war, he published The Colonizer and the Colonized with a preface by Jean-Paul Sartre, in 1957. Portrait of a Jew and The Liberation of the Jew were published by Gallimard in 1962 and 1966. Memmi became a French citizen in 1973. He taught at Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes and Université de Paris-Nanterre, received the Académie Française’s Grand Prix de la Francophonie and is a Doctor Honoris Causa of the Ben Gurion University of the Negev.
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