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Burnt Books: Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav and Franz Kafka (Jewish Encounters) [Hardcover]

Rodger Kamenetz
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

1 Oct 2010 Jewish Encounters
Part of the Jewish Encounter series

Rodger Kamenetz, acclaimed author of The Jew in the Lotus, has long been fascinated by the mystical tales of the Hasidic master Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav. And for many years he has taught a course in Prague on Franz Kafka. The more he thought about their lives and writings, the more aware he became of unexpected connections between them. Kafka was a secular artist fascinated by Jewish mysticism, and Rabbi Nachman was a religious mystic who used storytelling to reach out to secular Jews. Both men died close to age forty of tuberculosis. Both invented new forms of storytelling that explore the search for meaning in an illogical, unjust world. Both gained prominence with the posthumous publication of their writing. And both left strict instructions at the end of their lives that their unpublished books be burnt.
 
Kamenetz takes his ideas on the road, traveling to Kafka’s birthplace in Prague and participating in the pilgrimage to Uman, the burial site of Rabbi Nachman visited by thousands of Jews every Jewish new year. He discusses the hallucinatory intensity of their visions and offers a rich analysis of Nachman’s and Kafka’s major works, revealing uncanny similarities in the inner lives of these two troubled and beloved figures, whose creative and religious struggles have much to teach us about the significant role played by the imagination in the Jewish spiritual experience.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Schocken Books (1 Oct 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805242570
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805242577
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 13.9 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 918,599 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stories within stories 3 Dec 2010
Format:Hardcover
A brilliantly researched and sensitively executed exploration of how the lives of these two great men intertwined across space and time. Kabbalah (the Jewish Mystical tradition) tells of letters within letters, words within words, and worlds within worlds. Kamenetz allows himself to be guided by these two masters ever deeper into the tangled orchard of Jewish identity.
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Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A personal reading of Rodger Kamenetz' "Burned Books" 22 Jan 2012
By Miha Ahronovitz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Rodger Kamenetz book is about my life too. And I did not write this book. But his observation that Kafka used a Talmudic thinking to write is documented brilliantly. His observation that Kafka lived an eternal Yom Kippur, being obsessed whether he is judged by every word he said, stemming from a perfectionism impossible to achieve, it's about me and others like me. Kafka never crossed the door of the Law, he never reached the Castle, he does not know the reason why K dies in the Trial. Yet these questions are part of his life, much beyond the oversimplification of Kafka as a scribe about an absurd world, where each time we have an argument with a boss, a teacher and a parent we feel identified.

Kafka has no answers, but an "unending analysis", same as Talmudic, Midrashic, and Mishnaic commentaries. Kafka's "The Trial", for example, embodies the particular techniques of rabbinic hermeneutics. These are dry words.At a personal level, the three levels of soul perceived by the humans, Nefesh (the animal soul), Ruach, the wind towards Nesahama, the spiritual soul, must be visible. Most people relate the word "soul" with Nefesh. If you listen to soul jazz music, you feel the Neshama

I never understood the Kafka's Metamorphosis, until my mother had a stroke trying to get a bottle of milk from the fridge. She became an insect-like and many people started treating her as an insect. "There must a treatment" she said to me. "I can not stay like this, for the rest of my days" It is this treatment that I was unable to find for her than haunts me even today.

Joseph Roth wrote, when in stress, we do not seek the knower, we seek the believer. My mother had a good medical care, but she had no hope, something that those miracle- rabbis . not the doctors, can give us. Hope, Believe, because there is something above us that we have no the capacity to understand. But Rabbi Nachman knows more secrets, he knows more than he is allowed to reveal. If he does reveal, he pays a dear price: his son, his wife and even his own life, were at stake.

I see how #1 on Amazon is the memoir of an ex president. #1 in Sales should be Roger Kamenetz book. But he writes for a special group of people that have experienced Kabbalah, not only read about it or attend the fad of it. Reading the book is easy, as I read a thriller. I am not the only one, but we are hardly as many as the the ex President readers or bass Rolling Stone player readers, speaking through the pen of professional ghost writers who beautify their lives beyond what they really are.

Rodger is also a ghost writer, but not for a human flesh person like George Bush or Keith Richard. He gives us the voice that come from somewhere, perhaps ultimately from the the Divine that both Rabbi Nachman faith and Kafka secularism accepted as real. Mr. Kamenetz has Ruach Neshama
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding survey any Jewish studies collection should have! 16 Jan 2011
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Rodger Kamanetz's BURNT BOOKS: RABBI NACHMAN OF BRATSLAV AND FRANZ KAFKA comes from a teacher who for many years taught a course in Prague on Franz Kafka. His consideration of the unexpected connections between Hasidic master Rabbi Nachman and Kafka - which includes spiritual connections and even their co-invention of new forms of storytelling that explore the search for meaning in an unjust world - makes for an outstanding survey any Jewish studies collection should have!
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Rebbe and the Neurotic 21 Jun 2011
By Eric Maroney - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Rodger Kamenetz, of The Jew in the Lotus fame, takes on Kafka and Rebbe Nachman in Burnt Books. Kamenetz sets a course to show us the similarities and differences between both men, and most importantly, the points of contact and departure of their respective fiction and stories. Both use parable to advance their own spiritual agendas. Both burned books and manuscripts they felt missed the mark (Kafka) or revealed esoteric secrets (Rebbe Nachman). Both were questioners, doubter, seekers and mercurial.

Kamenetz does a good job plotting these intricate courses, but sometimes gets lost and the narrative get tangled. We go from Kafka to the Rebbe to Kementz's trip to Uman with no apparent sense. There is a great deal of repetition that could have been eliminated, and in the end, the sheer weight of Kafka's and Rebbe Nachman's unbending personalities make us wonder if there really is a connection between these two men worth extended investigation.

With that in mind, Kamenetz has still written a book that raises interesting questions about faith, doubt, and the art of writing. He just takes a while to get us there.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stories within stories 5 Dec 2010
By Dr. E. M. Cohen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
A brilliantly researched and sensitively executed exploration of how the lives of these two great men intertwined across space and time. Kabbalah (the Jewish Mystical tradition) tells of letters within letters, words within words, and worlds within worlds. Kamenetz allows himself to be guided by these two masters ever deeper into the tangled orchard of Jewish identity.
5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well Reaserched Just Drags On Forever 12 Dec 2010
By Harlan Kilstein - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Roger's latest offering comparing the lives and story telling techniques of Franz Kafka and Rabbi Nachman of Breslov is a well researched tome.

Unfortunately, the book drags on endlessly. When it finally comes to a conclusion it's a relief.

Others have pointed out the similarities between Kafka and Rabbi Nachman but none have belabored the point as long.

Is it a biography of both that tries to merge them in the middle?

Is it the claim that Kafka is the reincarnation of Rabbi Nachman?

Is it the telling of the tale of his journey to Uman with his Franz Kafka coffee mug?

It's hard to say.

If you are a dedicated fan of Kafka or Rabbi Nachman, you may enjoy the book.

If you are looking for the latest "Jew And The Lotus", keep looking.
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