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Shtetl [Paperback]

Eva Hoffman
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
RRP: £9.99
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Book Description

24 Feb 2010
In Shtetl (Yiddish for small town), critically-acclaimed author Eva Hoffman brings the lost world of Eastern European Jews back to vivid life, depicting its complex institutions and vibrant culture, its beliefs, social distinctions, and customs. Through the small town of Brafsk, she looks at the fascinating experiments in multicultural coexistence-still relevant to us today-attempted in the eight centuries of Polish-Jewish history, and describes the forces which influenced Christian villagers decisions to conceal or betray their Jewish neighbors in the dark period of the Holocaust.

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Shtetl + Lost In Translation: A Life in a New Language
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Product details

  • Paperback: 302 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs (24 Feb 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586485245
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586485245
  • Product Dimensions: 20.8 x 14 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 559,100 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description

About the Author

Eva Hoffman was born in Cracow, Poland, and emigrated to the United States at the age of thirteen. She is the author of "Lost in Translation, Exit into History, After Such Knowledge," and "The Secret." She lives in London.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Poland and Polish Jews 25 Nov 1997
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
This serious, well-researched, and ultimately frustrating book is full of information and analysis.But it is definitely not the companion text to, say, the photography of Roman Vishniac, as the title might lead one to assume. In fact, it's historiography, and the title and subtitle are a bit misleading. It's as much about Poland as about the shtetl, and is -- incomprehensibly -- lacking an index. Hoffman grew up in Poland, emigrating as a teenager, and brings a compassionate mind to the historic problems of that country. Definitely worth reading.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 25 Aug 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Very happy
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3 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A worthy thesis. 1 Feb 1998
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
While it is true that the limits of difference were tested in the Polish-Jewish relationship, this book is as much as monument to the perpetrators and bystanders as it is to the victims. In the United States we do not have a situation where differences in culture lead to mass extermination. And though it is also true that the Germans were the instigators, it is no accident that the death camps were in Germany and eastern, not western, Europe. In any case, the dead Jewish children, women and men won't get out of their graves to dance if and when we finally understand this most terrible of all events.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars detailed, unbiased analysis of complex subject 1 Oct 2000
By lisatheratgirl - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I give this book 5 stars. The author has rejected myths, generalizations, and prejudiced thinking to give a fascinating history of Polish Christians and Polish Jews. She is careful to give the viewpoints of both groups, beginning in the Middle Ages and continuing to the present. When she quotes a source, she reminds us that this is that person's opinion, not necessarily a universal truth. She cites to references in Polish, Yiddish, and Hebrew. She does not condemn or defend either group, and realistically argues that neither was right or wrong; some people helped each other, some people harmed each other. She gives a detailed account of the history of Poland that is not widely available in this country. The author is both Polish and Jewish, and grew up in Poland. Her ability to abjectively at her subject is convincing and admirable.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The truth is never simple 15 Aug 2003
By Theodore C. Jonas - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Shtetl is an excellent work of social history, although it is also a good outline of Polish history at the political level over the 8 centuries it covers. It is well written and an easy read.
The author has a clear agenda, which is to be more balanced in her treatment of Poles than Jewish writers have usuually been and to be more balanced in her treatment of Jews than Poles have been. The book digs deeply into the sources of Polish perceptions of Jews and vice versa. It gives a deep feel for what life was like in Jewish communities in Poland. The chapter on the period between World Wars I and II is particularly good for showing the political, cultural and economic vibrancy that had come even to the rural shtetls. It must be one of the most "objective" books written about the historical relationship between Jews and Poles. A sympathetic portrait of both peoples that celebrates their virtues and describes their shortcomings as perceived by the other.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Deeply moving and personal look 19 Sep 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book filled me with hope, despair, joy, sorrow and finally, at the end, a disquieting and lingering sadness. Though not always complete in itstelling of political events, I strongly recommend this to anyone interested in learning about his Polish Jewish past. A good first look.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful review of lost family and cultural history 12 Dec 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Both my mother's parents came to the United States from Poland as children, sent alone on the boat with relatives' addresses in New York City pinned to their coats. Once here, they successfully assimilated, raised families, and bought homes. Family history and the effects of the holocaust erased the stories from the old country that could be handed down to future generations, including me. Ms. Hoffman's book recreates the socio-political history of Poland, and allows me to piece together various snippets of family history and attitudes and culture. I am sharing this with my family, as there were many "ah-ha's" of recognition for me in reading this work. While dry and more scholarly than I expected in some spots, this book was a gift to read. Thank you Ms. Hoffman.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good balanced history with some lessons for today. 17 Mar 2009
By VT-reviewer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book paints a complicated portrait of almost a thousand years of relations between Jews and Gentiles in Poland as they played out in a small town or shtetl. Without ignoring the horror of events such as the Holocaust, the author seldom describes this history as black and white; favoring shades of gray and multiple perspectives instead.

I appreciated the author's attempts at balance and her non-vindictive tone especially considering her own background. Focussing on how events played out in one particular town, grounds the account in the lives of real people and makes the subject more accessible. This is a good book for general readers but it suffers from overly academic language and a tendency to repeat itself in some places. I also thought the author's thesis about multiculturalism was underdeveloped.
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