A Life in Letters, 1914-1982

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Harvard University Press, 2002 - Biography & Autobiography - 547 pages
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Perhaps the greatest scholar of Jewish mysticism in the twentieth century, Gershom Scholem (1897-1982) once said of himself, "I have no biography, only a bibliography." Yet, in thousands of letters written over his lifetime, his biography does unfold, inscribing a life that epitomized the intellectual ferment and political drama of an era. This selection of the best and most representative letters--drawn from the 3000 page German edition--gives readers an intimate view of this remarkable man, from his troubled family life in Germany to his emergence as one of the leading lights of Israel during its founding and formative years.

In the letters, we witness the travails and vicissitudes of the Scholem family, a drama in which Gershom is banished by his father for his anti-kaiser Zionist sentiments; his antiwar, socialist brother is hounded and murdered; and his mother and remaining brothers are forced to emigrate. We see Scholem's friendships with some of the most intriguing intellectuals of the twentieth century--such as Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin, and Theodor Adorno--blossom and, on occasion, wither. And we learn firsthand about his Zionist commitment and his scholarly career, from his move to Palestine in the 1920s to his work as Professor of Jewish Mysticism at the Hebrew University. Over the course of seven decades that comprised the most significant events of the twentieth century, these letters reveal how Scholem's scholarship is informed by the experiences he so eloquently described.

 

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A life in letters, 1914-1982

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Scholem was a giant in the scholarly study of Jewish mysticism, responsible for bringing the Kabbalah in particular to the attention of academia. However, the letters Skinner (Hebrew Univ ... Read full review

Contents

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About the author (2002)

Gershom Scholem's contribution to the understanding of Jewish mysticism is so dramatic that it warrants a separate introduction. As a young student of mathematics, he became a Zionist and his interest shifted to Jewish history. Scholem moved from Germany to become the librarian of the new University and National Library in Jerusalem in 1923 and served as a professor at Hebrew University from 1935 to 1965. Before him, Jewish historians during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries scorned the ignored mystical dimension of Judaism as a relic of premodern superstition and ignorance. Scholem's erudition and deep insight gave Cabala a scholarly audience. His writings are often difficult to read, but they are indispensable for any thorough knowledge of the subject of Jewish mysticism.

Anthony David was born 14.1.1965. 1985 92 studies in medicine, philosophy, literature at the University of Munich, Germany and University of Washington, Seattle, USA. 1992 4 Training Psychiatrist, Dept. Psychiatry, University of Munich, Germany. 1994-current Dept. of Psychiatry, University of Tubingen, Germany. 1997 2000 Researcher at the Institute of Psychiatry, London, UK 2000 1 Dept. of Neurology, Univ. of Tubingen, Germany. Book: Neuronale Korrelate von Sprachproduktion und -verstandnis bei Gesunden und Patienten mit Schizophrenie, Steinkopf Verlag (forthcoming) publications in leading journals on functional brain imaging, schizophrenia, Alzheimer's dementia, geriatric medicine, history of psychiatry, relaxation techniques.

?Anthony David Skinner is the author of The Patron: A Life of Salman Schocken.

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