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The Emperor of Lies Hardcover – 30 Aug 2011

4.4 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Hardcover, 30 Aug 2011
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 664 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux (30 Aug. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374139644
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374139643
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 3.5 x 23.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,246,115 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


'Sem-Sandberg's achievement is that this history becomes but a background to a multitude of vivid characters, whose experiences he weaves expertly into a mesmerising whole ... a novel about heart-wrenching suffering and extraordinary evil, transformed by Sem-Sandberg's talents into an irresistible work of fiction.' -- Guardian >> Fiction of true moral force, brilliantly sustained and achieved . . . stunning. -- Hilary Mantel >> Scene after scene comes vividly to life. . . A memorable examination of human resilience and the will to survive. . . a most distinguished addition to the literature of the holocaust.' -- Daily Express >> This brutally vivid narrative [is] a compelling homage to a community wiped off the map. -- Scotland on Sunday >> With this book, Sem-Sandberg steps into the magic circle of leading European writers. . . It is the humanity of the storytelling, so rich and vivid and yet under such complete control, which entices the readers of this dark book . . . [a] masterly novel. --Independent >> Sem-Sandberg's recreation of the Lodz ghetto, utterly convincing, rich in sympathy and understanding, is more a lightly fictionalised documentary than a work of the imagination. --Allan Massie, Scotsman

Irresistable . . . absorbing from first page to last . . . Dickens would have been very pleased with this novel.' -- --Guardian --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

The Emporer of Lies by Steve Sem-Sandberg is a compelling tale of power, corruption and compromise from one of Scandinavia's most revered authors. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Some Holocaust issues have remained controversial. The institution The Jewish Council, or as it was known in German as the "Judenrat" is one of them. Were the heads and members of the Councils collaborators and traitors or heroes who have done all they could in order to save their berthren from the evil machine of the Nazi hordes?
This is the subject of "The Emperor of Lies", whose hero or anti-hero is Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski, an elderly Jewish businessman, who was chosen to be the leader of the Lodz ghetto in Poland, the second greatest Jewish ghetto there. This ghetto was established by the Nazis in February 1940 and it hosted a quarter of a million Jews. It was separated by barbed wire. Rumkowski,or "King Chaim", as he was better known, was cynical, ambitious, devious, monarchical, devilish, arrogant, cunning, vain and " uneducated who resorted to the coarsest of threats and insults" and with whom "no one even wanted to share a table". He managed to establish a whole industry of workshops manufacturing many products to be sent to the Nazi army and administered tens of thousands of Jews under the slogan which he created, namely: "Our only way is Work". This is a reminder of what the Nazi beasts engraved at the entrance of Auschwitz: "Arbeit Macht Frei". Thus starts the odyssey of the reader into the dark, sombre and tragic times of the ghetto, and whose fate is well known. The novel is a stupendous achievement, because of some reasons.
First, this is a great work of imagination, which manages to recreate not only the ghetto but also the historical context of it. The book has many and various characters and episodes which come all alive and the reader has the impression that he is watching each and every moment of them.
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Format: Paperback
An amazing and horrific account of life in the Lodz Jewish ghetto - second largest in Poland. The head of the ghetto, Chaim Rumkowski, set to turning 'his' town into an industrial centre that would become invaluable to the Nazis, and so- he hoped- save the inhabitants. Certainly it was the longest lasting ghetto, surviving in part at least until 1944. Yet at the same time Rumkowski definitely feathered his nest on the proceeds, living comfortably and eating well while the rest starved.
Not a consecutive narrative, but a series of 'snapshots' of the wartime experiences of the inhabitants, perhaps most terribly the regular demands by the Nazis that the ghetto periodically hand over set numbers of its people to go to 'work camps'.
"They demand that we give them the very things most valuable to us- our children and our old people....I must now reach out my hands and ask: Brothers and sisters, give them to me. Give me your children!"
Perhaps the part that will remain most vividly with me is the heartbreaking final section where one of the young men hides from transportation and attempts to live out a Polish winter with almost no food or heat in an almost deserted ghetto.
The author doesn't attempt to solve the controversy that has always persisted about Rumkowski; I didn't finish the book with a 100% certainty of what I felt about him. Sem-Sandberg doesn't describe 'the Emperor's' feelings as he does other characters, and while he had huge personal failings, he was in an impossible political position.
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Format: Paperback
Steve Sem-Sandberg uses the novel form to explore one of the most controversial figures in the Holocaust, Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski, the 'Elder' who was the spokesperson for the Jews in the Lodz ghetto in Poland. Rumkowski was in effect the 'king' of the ghetto, a vain dictator who issued his own Ghetto currency and postage stamps, backed up by his own police force. Rumkowski thought that by working with his German captors he could somehow save 'his people' - but he was just a dupe of the Nazis. (It isn't a matter of historical hindsight: many of the people around him realised it at the time.) Sem-Sandberg's uses a vast cast of historical figures and fictional characters to paint an all too vivid picture of what it must have been like to live in this hellish universe, where hunger and fear turned moral values upside down. Sem-Sandberg is Swedish but his range and depth of storytelling reminded me more than anything of the great Russian novelists. This vast book is a challenging read - but is also endlessly thought-provoking and humane. Recommended.
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Format: Paperback
It is really no overstatement to compare Swedish author Steve Sem-Sandberg's epic novel about the people in the Lodz ghetto during World War II to Tolstoy's War and Peace, published almost one hundred fifty years earlier. The real life dramas which the book illustrates, the memorable characters, the carefully developed themes which Sem-Sandburg treats in new ways, and the magnitude of the horrors easily make this book the equal of Tolstoy's epic. The nature of the subject matter, of course, precludes any hint of romanticism here, but Sem-Sandburg is so good at varying scenes involving a series of fully human, repeating characters, that I cannot imagine any reader not becoming fully engaged with them. Beautifully written to memorialize the people of the ghetto, rather than the horrors of the Holocaust itself, this book is an awe-inspiring literary achievement.

Taking place between 1940 and 1944, the novel opens with two contrasting passages. The first, a memorandum from December, 1939, announcing the Germans' intention to enclose the two hundred twenty-thousand Jews in Lodz within a ghetto--"a temporary measure." In the second passage, a scene from September 1 - 4, 1942, Mordechai Chaim Rumkowsky, Chairman of the Jews' Ruling Council of Elders, must give the population news so inhuman and so devastating, that the Chairman of the Warsaw ghetto, took cyanide rather then give that same news to his own people. Ten thousand residents, chosen from babies and children under the age of ten and "elderly" over the age of sixty-five, were to be handed over to the Gestapo for immediate "relocation.
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