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Landscapes of the Metropolis of Death: Reflections on Memory and Imagination

Landscapes of the Metropolis of Death: Reflections on Memory and Imagination [Kindle Edition]

Otto Dov Kulka
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)

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Product Description


'A poetic masterpiece unlike anything else written on the subject' (Simon Schama Telegraph BOOKS OF THE YEAR)

This is one of the most remarkable testimonies to inhumanity that I know. The deeply moving recollections of Dov Kulka's boyhood years in Auschwitz, interwoven with reflections of elegiac, poetic quality, vividly convey the horror of the death-camp, the trauma of family and friends, and the indelible imprint left on the memory of a young boy who became a distinguished historian of the Holocaust. An extraordinarily important work which needs to be read (Sir Ian Kershaw)

Astonishing ... [Landscapes] is, quite simply, extraordinary ... a sort of Modernist precipitate of a historical work, something strange and powerful formed from, but separate to, the solution of history ... I can't see how this book could be bettered (Robert Eaglestone Times Higher Education)

Almost unclassifiable ... Nothing else I have read comes close to this profound examination of what the Holocaust means ... [Kulka's] journey strikes me as a quest similar to the attempt to describe the face of God or the structure of the universe. They are too vast and too mysterious. Not that this stops us, or this author, from trying (Linda Grant New Statesman)

Primo Levi's testimony, it is often said, is that of a chemist: clear, cool, precise, distant. So with Kulka's work: this is the product of a master historian - ironic, probing, present in the past, able to connect the particular with the cosmic. His memory is in the service of deep historical understanding, rendered in evocative prose that is here eloquently translated from Hebrew (Thomas Laqueur Guardian)

Beautiful, startling ... This is a great book: read it. And be grateful - its publication is, in every possible sense, a miracle ... It is the strange and shocking paradox, this child's world constructed in such proximity to death, that makes the book so startling and so beautiful. Every incident is, in effect, seen twice: through the eyes of the historian and the eyes of a boy ... This is not history, it is something else... his words enter the wider sphere of literature (Bryan Appleyard Sunday Times)

Kulka's reflections have an unsettling rawness ... yet even in Auschwitz, there are moments of protest, black humour and beauty ... This is a grave, poetic and horrifying account of the Holocaust which does not so much revisit the Auschwitz of the past, but the Auschwitz of Kulka's inner world (Arifa Akbar Independent)

This is not so much a book about Auschwitz as one about coming to terms with the shock of survival ... Amid fragmentary, digressive impressions are images of terrible poetic concreteness ... What, ultimately, makes Kulka's book unlike any other first-hand account written about the camps is the authenticity of its vision of an 11-year-old boy... He has done the rest of us - and the world - so great a kindness by writing his book ... offer[ing] the barest glint of sunlight amid a thunderous darkness (Simon Schama Financial Times)

A book of moments, hauntings and dreams ... it is unremitting and touches us all [with] a hallucinatory power (The Times)

Otto Dov Kulka's brief, beautiful and unsettling Landscapes of the Metropolis of Death brings together childhood memories of Auschwitz with the reflections of a historian who has spent his life working on the Holocaust: a masterly interrogation of memory and the limitations of historical detachment (Roy Foster Times Literary Supplement BOOKS OF THE YEAR)

For the first time, [Kulka] has turned his academic eye inward to explore as unflinchingly as possible the ways in which his childhood encounter with Auschwitz has affected him. Landscapes of the Metropolis of Death makes for deeply disturbing but ultimately very rewarding reading, and is unlike any Holocaust memoir I have ever come across ... The book is not a memoir in the conventional sense, but an extraordinary collection of some of the memories, ideas and dreams that make up Kulka's internal landscape (Keith Lowe Telegraph)

In this short, powerful memoir, every word tells its story (Daily Mail)

The term memoir barely seems adequate to the introspective, often poetic, sometimes hallucinatory moments that [Landscapes] captures ... such an important contribution to the literature on the Holocaust ... [it] unsettles presuppositions about the camp and its lasting psychological effects so thoroughly that even a reader steeped in the Holocaust canon is likely to experience a sense of defamiliarisation (Sydney Review of Books)

Product Description

Otto Dov Kulka's memoir of a childhood spent in Auschwitz is a literary feat of astounding emotional power, exploring the permanent and indelible marks left by the Holocaust


As a child, the distinguished historian Otto Dov Kulka was sent first to the ghetto of Theresienstadt and then to Auschwitz. As one of the few survivors he has spent much of his life studying Nazism and the Holocaust, but always as a discipline requiring the greatest coldness and objectivity, with his personal story set to one side. But he has remained haunted by specific memories and images, thoughts he has been unable to shake off.

Translated by Ralph Mandel.

'The greatest book on Auschwitz since Primo Levi ... Kulka has achieved the impossible' - the panel of Judges, Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Prize

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 8167 KB
  • Print Length: 128 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0674072898
  • Publisher: Penguin (31 Jan 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00ADNPC34
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #112,138 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving and personal Holocaust survivor account. 14 July 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
A powerful memoir. I was incredibly moved by the experiences of Otto Dov Kulka who, as a child, survived life in Auschwitz and who now, at 80, has given the world his personal memories as testament to those times. The child reaches out from these pages and the years drop away. You find yourself hand in hand with the ten year old Otto and his honesty and clarity are powerfully emotional things.

I'm not going to go into detail about the horror of the camps and instead would rather focus on the strength of the human spirit crying out behind each and every word. At times there's an almost spiritual beauty here that transcends the barbarity.....although, obviously, could never excuse it.

The use of illustrations adds emotional texture while black and white photographs remind us of the stark reality. Much thought has gone into the presentation of the book which has been carefully and gently created to house such an important work.

I have only one thing to add - read the book - it's important we remember.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A haunting work 15 Sep 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
It is quite hard to know what to say about a book which defies categorisation. Certainly it is not a camp memoir in anything like the conventional sense, ('I am probing the memory, not writing memoirs'), rather a meditation on the ways the traumatic experience of Theresienstadt and Auschwitz shaped the thinking and psychological life of one whose profession (academic historian) demands a critical separation of the personal from the past.

The book is essentially a collection of short reflections, sombre musings which are utterly devoid of self-pity. Some of these relate to visits to the camps where the author was imprisoned as a child; others explore dreams from later years, or memories of events and characters in the camp, such as Imre, the conductor of the children's choir and his training of the children in the seemingly paradoxical choice of 'the Ode to Joy'. Yet in all these musings, the point is not so much the events referred to, as what memory has made of them and what that tells the author about himself.

I am in danger of making this sound like an intellectual puzzle or indulgence, which it most certainly isn't. It's a remarkable book which lingers in my memory far longer than its slight dimensions would suggest. Read it!

Postscript: reading Kulka's book prompted me to turn again to Anselm Kiefer / Paul Celan: Myth, Mourning and Memory. The price is prohibitive, but the book is well worth searching out in a public library and resonates strongly with kulka's book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A definitive personal insight 12 Aug 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Historical facts, or cultural exploration of this period are not the meat of the book, indeed the author feels somewhat alienated from it (some facts of the period are is contained in the short appendix). This is a spontaneous narrative that comes from the soul, the recollection of the author's deep inner experiences of his childhood spent at Auschwitz.

The spontaneity of the text provides powerful credibility, the narrative flowing as he speaks. This results in an intense immediacy and presence. The paucity of emotional words in his descriptions is particularly stark. The author provides the palette; it is up to the readers to determine their own emotional reaction.

It is as if Otto Dov Kulka has the ability of a dispassionate journalist describing events in simple, almost objective ways. This intensifies the horror. For instance, his account of the public beating to death of an inmate chosen at random from the camp, with the ensuing torture by the SS officers "game of sticks", another the recollection of his own need to force himself to watch the public hanging of 4 Russian inmates.

Very few writings deserve a 5 star rating from the outset without little deliberation of thought. This is such a work.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing 1 April 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A truly memorable book. Heartbreaking, as you might expect from a survivor's account, but poetic and beyond the personal. The writer revisits physically and metaphysically the dreamscapes of death which he inhabited in his childhood yet continues to inhabit today, and the reader is given a whisper of understanding as to what the write's experiences were and are: that we are all plugged in to and cannot escape for ever, the Great Death.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Holocaust Childhood 17 Mar 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A really interesting, and welcome, addition to Holocaust literature. Through the darkness and horror of those times Kulka captures what it was like to arrive in Auschwitz as a 10-year old child. Grappling with that concept, and only facing up to it many, many years later, makes this a really important contribution to our understanding of these times. The image of the 'Ode to Joy' being sung within sight of the crematoria, and his concern over the fact that his mother never looked back at him as she marched away to her death are two, among many, scenarios that will chill the readers of this short work.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A profound classic 27 Feb 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
An astonishingly moving account of the effects of childhood experiences in Auschwitz and a fascinating philosophical reflection on these effects
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars beautiful grit, and the edge of death 31 Dec 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
A book that opens with a Kafka quote is always heading for the hills in range, and to the valleys in depth and grit. This is a haunting read.

Possibly one of the most remarkable testimonies to life experience. Here's deeply moving recollections of boyhood years in Auschwitz, interwoven with reflections offered in an ethereal poetic quality, vividly convey the horror of the edge of death, the trauma of family and friends, and the indelible imprint left on the memory of a young life. Here's hoping it's not bludgeoned in a movie-remake in the years up ahead.

Here is beautiful light in the face of much darkness. This is a book beyond comprehension, in it's shock, dread and humility. A beautiful narrative of inhumanity.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Very detached
When I read the reviews lots of people remarked that the story was told in a very factual way. Not that the writer did not have great feelings and sadness, but its quite a... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mrs Beverly Laymond
5.0 out of 5 stars A significant addition to literature about the Holocaust
This is a very slim book, with perhaps a rather off-putting and pretentious title. But it is the quality of the writing that counts and Otto Dov Kulka's sombre and moving... Read more
Published 3 months ago by J. H. Bretts
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking memories of a ten-year-old's experiences
A thoroughly interesting and thought-provoking book. I bought it following a recent visit to Auschwitz and Birkenau which gave me a better understanding of the book.
Published 3 months ago by Richard Manning
4.0 out of 5 stars Haunting, intriguing and unusual holocaust recollections
I've read quite a number of accounts of the death camps and have visited Dachau and other holocaust memorials so I could describe myself as well versed in the usual remembered... Read more
Published 5 months ago by bomble
4.0 out of 5 stars Fragmentary & episodic prose poem
Eminent Israeli historian Otto Dov Kulka has more reason than many to make a serious study of Nazism. Read more
Published 6 months ago by C. O'Brien
4.0 out of 5 stars Haunting and powerful
Not an easy read but a compelling one, a personal and heartbreaking account of the author's childhood experiences in Auschwitz. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Nikki
5.0 out of 5 stars A unique and profound work on humanity and inhumanity
So much has been written about the Holocaust in history and literature. Kulka's work here is unique, at least in my experience of such writing. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Mark Lewis
4.0 out of 5 stars A child survivor of Auschwitz reflects
The author of 'Landscapes...', now a distinguished eighty-year-old historian, was a child inmate of Auschwitz-Birkenau from September 1943. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Paul Bowes
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard Going
I don't know why but I've had a great interest in the Holocaust for years. I've read many books and seen quite a few documentaries about the subject. Read more
Published 7 months ago by A. Horner
5.0 out of 5 stars A new window on the Holocaust
I've read numerous Holocaust books and memoirs, the most affecting of which I had found to be Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account (Penguin Modern Classics). Read more
Published 7 months ago by Ian Shine
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