Vladimir Jabotinsky may be best known as the father of Revisionist Zionism and as the author of the essay “The Iron Wall: We and the Arabs,” but he also was a novelist who is known for his Zionist re-fashioning of the biblical hero Samson. Written in Russian, “The Five: A Novel of Jewish Life in Turn-of-the Century Odessa” (Cornell University Press) is his second novel. It tells the story of a Jewish family living in fin-de-siècle Odessa. Michael R. Katz, professor of Russian studies at Middlebury College, undertook the English translation, the first rendition of the novel in any Western language.
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As the title suggests, “Walking the Bible: A Photographic Journey” (William Morrow) traces the footsteps of the biblical narrative. From the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates to the Nabatean ruins at Petra, Bruce Feiler documents the modern-day equivalents of biblical sites through photographs, personal reflections and historical anecdotes.
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Alice Mattison’s “In Case We’re Separated: Connected Stories” (William Morrow) is a collection of short stories that chronicle the generations of a Jewish American family in the 20th century. Set in 1954, the title story centers on Bobbie Kaplowitz, a Brooklyn widow who finds herself struggling to decide whether to answer the call of marriage or that of the Sunbeam Mixmaster.
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Kazimierz Sakowicz’s diary, edited and introduced by Yad Vashem’s former chairman Yitzhak Arad as “The Ponary Diary, July 1941-November 1943: A Bystander’s Account of a Mass Murder” (Yale University Press), is a firsthand account of the mass murders that took place in Ponary, Lithuania, starting in 1941. Some of the entries are longer and more elaborate observations, but most are short, unemotional descriptions of the events that Sakowicz witnessed. On Tuesday, October 13, 1942, he writes: “Two cars. They brought old Jews and shot them.” The simplicity of the prose is perhaps the book’s most poignant aspect.