The People and the Books: 18 Classics of Jewish Literature

The People and the Books: 18 Classics of Jewish Literature

by Adam Kirsch


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The People and the Books: 18 Classics of Jewish Literature by Adam Kirsch

An accessible introduction to the classics of Jewish literature, from the Bible to modern times, by “one of America’s finest literary critics” (Wall Street Journal).Jews have long embraced their identity as “the people of the book.” But outside of the Bible, much of the Jewish literary tradition remains little known to nonspecialist readers. The People and the Books shows how central questions and themes of our history and culture are reflected in the Jewish literary canon: the nature of God, the right way to understand the Bible, the relationship of the Jews to their Promised Land, and the challenges of living as a minority in Diaspora. Adam Kirsch explores eighteen classic texts, including the biblical books of Deuteronomy and Esther, the philosophy of Maimonides, the autobiography of the medieval businesswoman Glückel of Hameln, and the Zionist manifestoes of Theodor Herzl. From the Jews of Roman Egypt to the mystical devotees of Hasidism in Eastern Europe, The People and the Books brings the treasures of Jewish literature to life and offers new ways to think about their enduring power and influence.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393354782
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 10/10/2017
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 491,851
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Adam Kirsch is a poet, literary critic, and the director of the master’s program in Jewish studies at Columbia University. He is a also columnist for Tablet and a contributor to the New York Times Book Review and The New Yorker. He lives in New York.

Table of Contents

Preface xi

The People and the Books: A Timeline xvii

1 The Blessing and the Curse 1

The Book of Deuteronomy

2 In the Kingdom of Chance 25

The Book of Esther

3 Reading Against the Grain 45

The Exposition of the Laws Philo of Alexandria

4 Choosing Life 75

The Jewish War Flavins Josephus

5 Building Fences 103

Pirkei Avot

6 The Scandal of Chosenness 129

The Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela and the Kuzari Yehuda Halevi

7 Thinking Toward God 161

The Guide of the Perplexed Moses Maimonides

8 The Secret Life of God 193

The Zohar

9 Daughters of Zion 221

The Tsenerene and the Memoirs of Glückel of Hameln

10 Heresy and Freedom 247

Theological-Political Treatise Baruch Spinoza

11 Between Two Worlds 273

The Autobiography of Solomon Maimon and Jerusalem Moses Mendelssohn

12 Brokenness and Redemption 299

The Tales of Nachman of Bratslav

13 If You Will It 327

The Jewish State and Old New Land Theodor Herzl

14 On the Brink 353

Tevye the Dairyman Sholem Aleichem

Index 369

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