23 May 11 | Chad W. Post

The latest addition to our Reviews Section is a piece by Jessica LeTourneur on Tom Segev’s Simon Wiesenthal: The Life and Legends, which is available from Doubleday.

We don’t review a ton of nonfiction or biographies or untranslated titles here, but Jessica (who is one of our regular reviewers) was interested in writing about this. Unfortunately, it sounds like she was a bit disappointed . . .

Simon Wiesenthal: The Life and Legend is a poorly organized book that presents the reader with a disjointed narrative chronicling the life of a supremely caustic, yet also compassionate, man. The title suggests that readers will be presented with a traditional biography, chronologically narrating the private and personal life of an individual who through an accident of birth, or professional merit, has led a noteworthy life. While Simon Wiesenthal certainly falls into the latter category for his admirable and extraordinary work hunting down and legally prosecuting Nazi collaborators and Nazis alike, this book fails to do any real justice to Wiesenthal through its mediocre prose, confusing and awkward organization and narrative progression, and unnecessarily and overly long tangents which litter the text.

Simon Wiesenthal’s life story is well known to many the world over. Born in Austria in 1908, Wiesenthal spent four and a half years in Nazi concentration camps. On February 15, 1945 he was liberated from the concentration camp Mauthausen, and from that day forward vowed to devote his life to bringing Nazi criminals to justice for this horrific crimes they committed against Jews during the Holocaust. Wiesenthal succeeded in locating hundreds of Nazis in hiding, most of whom fled to South America and the United States in order to avoid prosecution for their crimes. Popular public memory of Wiesenthal by and large remembers him as an altruistic hero whose own Holocaust experiences drove him to pursue what Segev calls “not for glory or personal vendetta did Wiesenthal hunt Nazi criminals, but for a simple sense of justice.” In Life and Legend, however, Segev analyzes the lesser known, and not altogether likeable aspects of Wiesenthal’s personality, and the creative ways in which Wiesenthal constructed his public persona, and the controversial and contradictory stories that Wiesenthal told about his Holocaust experiences; throughout the book Segev suggests that Wiesenthal exaggerated his life experience to inflate his importance and aggrandize his Holocaust ordeals. Whatever the controversies surrounding Wiesenthal’s life story are, there is no question that his contributions to Holocaust memory—especially in the United States— along with his tireless and arduous work bringing Nazi criminals to justice are profoundly admirable. Unfortunately Simon Wiesenthal: The Life and Legend fails to do justice to an extraordinary and complex man.

Click here to read the full review.


Comments are disabled for this article.
....
Faces in the Crowd
Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli
Reviewed by Valerie Miles

At 30, the Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli is already gathering her rosebuds. Faces in the Crowd, her poised debut novel, was published by Coffee House Press, along with her Brodsky-infused essay collection, Sidewalks. The essays stand as a theoretical map. . .

Read More >

Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia
Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia by Julio Cortázar
Reviewed by Cameron Rowe

Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia (narrated by Julio Cortázar) is, not disappointingly, as wild a book as its title suggests. It is a half-novella half-graphic novel story about . . . what, exactly? A European tribunal, Latin. . .

Read More >

Self-Portrait in Green
Self-Portrait in Green by Marie NDiaye
Reviewed by Lori Feathers

Marie NDiaye has created a tiny, psychological masterpiece with her Self-Portrait in Green. In it she explores how our private fears and insecurities can distort what we believe to be real and can cause us to sabotage our intimate relationships.. . .

Read More >

The Madmen of Benghazi
The Madmen of Benghazi by Gerard de Villiers
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

Reading a genre book—whether fantasy, science fiction, crime, thriller, etc.—which begins to seem excessively, stereotypically bad, I have to make sure to ask myself: is this parodying the flaws of the genre? Usually, this questioning takes its time coming. In. . .

Read More >

The Four Corners of Palermo
The Four Corners of Palermo by Giuseppe Di Piazza
Reviewed by Patience Haggin

The Sicilian Mafia has always been a rich subject for sensational crime fiction. The Godfather, Goodfellas, and The Sopranos worked the mob’s bloody corpses and family feuds to both entertainment and artistic value. Giuseppe di Piazza’s debut novel attempts this,. . .

Read More >

Writers
Writers by Antoine Volodine
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

Antoine Volodine’s vast project (40 plus novels) of what he calls the post-exotic remains mostly untranslated, so for many of us, understanding it remains touched with mystery, whispers from those “who know,” and guesswork. That’s not to say that, were. . .

Read More >

My Brilliant Friend
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
Reviewed by Acacia O'Connor

It hasn’t quite neared the pitch of the waiting-in-line-at-midnight Harry Potter days, but in small bookstores and reading circles of New York City, an aura has attended the novelist Elena Ferrante and her works. One part curiosity (Who is she?),. . .

Read More >

Stealth
Stealth by Sonallah Ibrahim
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

From the late 1940s to the early 1950s, Egypt was going through a period of transition. The country’s people were growing unhappy with the corruption of power in the government, which had been under British rule for decades. The Egyptians’. . .

Read More >

Miruna, a Tale
Miruna, a Tale by Bogdan Suceavă
Reviewed by Alta Ifland

Miruna is a novella written in the voice of an adult who remembers the summer he (then, seven) and his sister, Miruna (then, six) spent in the Evil Vale with their grandfather (sometimes referred to as “Grandfather,” other times as. . .

Read More >

Kamal Jann
Kamal Jann by Dominique Eddé
Reviewed by Lori Feathers

Kamal Jann by the Lebanese born author Dominique Eddé is a tale of familial and political intrigue, a murky stew of byzantine alliances, betrayals, and hostilities. It is a well-told story of revenge and, what’s more, a serious novel that. . .

Read More >

The next few events from our Translation Events Calendar: See More Events >