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.
....
The History of Silence
The History of Silence by Pedro Zarraluki
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

Pedro Zarraluki’s The History of Silence (trans. Nick Caistor and Lorenza García) begins with the narrator and his wife, Irene, setting out to write a book about silence, itself called The History of Silence: “This is the story of how. . .

Read More >

Flesh-Coloured Dominoes
Flesh-Coloured Dominoes by Zigmunds Skujiņš
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

There are plenty of reasons you can fail to find the rhythm of a book. Sometimes it’s a matter of discarding initial assumptions or impressions, sometimes of resetting oneself. Zigmunds Skujiņš’s Flesh-Coloured Dominoes was a defining experience in the necessity. . .

Read More >

Iraqi Nights
Iraqi Nights by Dunya Mikhail
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

In a culture that privileges prose, reviewing poetry is fairly pointless. And I’ve long since stopped caring about what the world reads and dropped the crusade to get Americans to read more poems. Part of the fault, as I’ve suggested. . .

Read More >

Three-Light Years
Three-Light Years by Andrea Canobbio
Reviewed by Tiffany Nichols

I would like to pose the argument that it is rare for one to ever come across a truly passive protagonist in a novel. The protagonist (perhaps) of Three Light-Years, Claudio Viberti, is just that—a shy internist who lives in. . .

Read More >

The Little Horse
The Little Horse by Thorvald Steen
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

The last five days of the eleventh-century Icelandic politician, writer of sagas, and famous murder victim Snorri Sturleleson (the Norwegian spelling, Snorre, is preserved in the book) make up Thorvald Steen’s most recently translated historical fiction, The Little Horse. Murdered. . .

Read More >

Guys Like Me
Guys Like Me by Dominique Fabre
Reviewed by Peter Biello

We all know Paris, or at least we think we know it. The Eiffel Tower. The Latin Quarter. The Champs-Élysées. The touristy stuff. In Dominique Fabre’s novel, Guys Like Me, we’re shown a different side of Paris: a gray, decaying. . .

Read More >

Birth of a Bridge
Birth of a Bridge by Maylis de Kerangal
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

One hundred pages into Birth of a Bridge, the prize-winning novel from French writer Maylis de Kerangal, the narrator describes how starting in November, birds come to nest in the wetlands of the fictional city of Coca, California, for three. . .

Read More >

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 >