The House of Twenty Thousand Books

The House of Twenty Thousand Books

by Sasha Abramsky

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Overview

Named one of Kirkus's Best Nonfiction Books of 2015

The House of Twenty Thousand Books
is the story of Chimen Abramsky, an extraordinary polymath and bibliophile who amassed a vast collection of socialist literature and Jewish history. For more than fifty years Chimen and his wife, Miriam, hosted epic gatherings in their house of books that brought together many of the age’s greatest thinkers.

The atheist son of one of the century’s most important rabbis, Chimen was born in 1916 near Minsk, spent his early teenage years in Moscow while his father served time in a Siberian labor camp for religious proselytizing, and then immigrated to London, where he discovered the writings of Karl Marx and became involved in left-wing politics. He briefly attended the newly established Hebrew University in Jerusalem, until World War II interrupted his studies. Back in England, he married, and for many years he and Miriam ran a respected Jewish bookshop in London’s East End. When the Nazis invaded Russia in June 1941, Chimen joined the Communist Party, becoming a leading figure in the party’s National Jewish Committee. He remained a member until 1958, when, shockingly late in the day, he finally acknowledged the atrocities committed by Stalin. In middle age, Chimen reinvented himself once more, this time as a liberal thinker, humanist, professor, and manuscripts’ expert for Sotheby’s auction house. 

Journalist Sasha Abramsky re-creates here a lost world, bringing to life the people, the books, and the ideas that filled his grandparents’ house, from gatherings that included Eric Hobsbawm and Isaiah Berlin to books with Marx’s handwritten notes, William Morris manuscripts and woodcuts, an early sixteenth-century Bomberg Bible, and a first edition of Descartes’s Meditations. The House of Twenty Thousand Books is a wondrous journey through our times, from the vanished worlds of Eastern European Jewry to the cacophonous politics of modernity.

The House of Twenty Thousand Books includes 43 photos.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781590178898
Publisher: New York Review Books
Publication date: 09/01/2015
Sold by: Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 934,467
File size: 9 MB

About the Author

Sasha Abramsky was born in England, grew up in London, and attended Balliol College, Oxford, where he studied politics, philosophy, and economics. Abramsky is a journalist and author whose work has appeared in The Nation, The American Prospect, The New Yorker online, and many other publications. His most recent book, The American Way of Poverty: How the Other Half Still Lives, was listed by The New York Times as among the one hundred notable books of 2013. He is a Senior Fellow at Demos think tank, and teaches writing at University of California, Davis. Abramsky lives in Sacramento, California, with his wife and their two children.

Table of Contents

Prologue I Saying Goodbye 1

Prologue II Saying Hello 23

Master Bedroom: The Citadel 45

The Hallway: An Extraordinary Portal 85

The Kitchen: Salt, Sugar, and a Dash of Love 127

The Front Room: The Haskalah 151

The Dining Room: Rituals and Rebels 207

Upstairs Front Room: Roots 231

Dining Room Resurgent: Rebirth 267

Front Room Revisited: Endings 303

Acknowledgments 329

Family Trees 336

Index 341

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