The Emperor of Lies

The Emperor of Lies

Book - 2011
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Winner of the August Prize, Sweden's most important literary award

A Globe and Mail Best Books of the Year 2011 Title

To be published in more than twenty-five languages

A major international literary event

"This is real literature. A great work of fiction." --Per Svensson, Dagens Nyheter

In February 1940, the Nazis established what would become the second-largest Jewish ghetto, in the Polish city of Lódz. The leader they appointed was Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski, a sixty-three-year-old Jewish businessman and orphanage director--and the elusive, authoritarian power sustaining the ghetto's very existence.

A haunting, profoundly challenging novel, The Emperor of Lies chronicles the tale of Rumkowski's monarchical rule over a quarter-million Jews for the next four and a half years. Driven by a titanic ambition, he sought to transform the ghetto into a productive industrial complex and strove to make it--and himself--indispensable to the Nazi regime. These compromises would have extraordinary consequences not only for Rumkowski but for everyone living in the ghetto. Drawing on the detailed records of life in Lódz, Steve Sem-Sandberg, in a masterful feat of literary imagination and empathy, captures the full panorama of human resilience and probes deeply into the nature of evil. Through the dramatic narrative, he asks the most difficult questions: Was Rumkowski a ruthless opportunist, an accessory to the Nazi regime motivated by a lust for power? Or was he a pragmatist who managed to save Jewish lives through his collaboration policies? How did the inhabitants of the ghetto survive in such extreme circumstances?

A critically acclaimed breakout bestseller in Sweden, The Emperor of Lies introduces a writer of great significance to American readers. The archives detail daily life in the Lodz ghetto, under the reign of Rumkowki, but it takes a writer with Sem-Sandberg's singular talent to help us understand the truth of this chilling history.

Publisher: New York :, Farrar, Straus and Giroux,, 2011.
Edition: First American edition.
ISBN: 9780374139643
0374139644
Branch Call Number: FIC SEMS
Characteristics: 664 pages ; 23 cm
Additional Contributors: Death, Sarah

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salamanderA
Dec 09, 2013

This is a haunting, absorbing novel based on documents from the £odz ghetto, unforgettably detailing the years of slow disintegration and betrayal, the loss of control to Nazis by the self-important leader, Chaim Rumkowski, the Eldest of the Jews, who, corrupt himself, repeatedly tries to bargain with them. Full of observations about a world with no possible beyond or future, there are hardpunching vignettes of a cast of individuals, told poetically and in excruciating detail, as they decline into starvation, dream-states, and death. I’ve never read a more impressive book.

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dbed
Oct 31, 2012

I must admit that I gave up on this book after 280 pages. It was advertised as an analysis of the main character as either a corrupt, power hungry opportunist or someone trying to save Lodz Jews. But it was obvious in the first few pages that Rumkowski was no Schlindler. Unfortunately the book went on and on in graphic detail about the betrayal and inhumane treatments of the Jews by the Nazis. If you were a Halocaust non-believer this might be a good book. But if you are already aware of what happened to the European Jews in WWII, this was just gore upon gore upon gore.

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