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An emotionally powerful, poetic Yiddish novel, available in English for the first time, that expands our understanding of Holocaust literature and testimony
Flames from the Earth: A Novel from the Łódź Ghetto is an autobiographical novel written by Isaiah Spiegel, one of the most revered Yiddish authors to survive the Holocaust. Originally published in Israel in 1966, the novel brings together material that Spiegel wrote while imprisoned in the Łódź Ghetto, which he recovered from a cellar when he returned from Auschwitz after the war. The only works by Spiegel previously available to English readers have been short stories.
In this, his first novel, Spiegel explores a complex web of characters in and around the Łódź Ghetto: Vigdor and Gitele, lovers who are involved in the ghetto resistance movement; Nicodem, a Polish priest, who hides a member of the Jewish underground; Stefan Kaczmarek, a Polish tavern keeper who betrays Nicodem to preserve his own smuggling business; Franz Jessike, a Nazi guard who blackmails local Poles for personal gain; and Chaim Vidaver, the heroic leader of the ghetto resistance. Based largely on historical events, the novel’s lyrical style echoes its emotional intensity.
Gripping and atmospheric, Flames from the Earth honors daring acts of heroism and human connections forged amid unthinkable conditions. Spiegel’s novel represents an important contribution to the archive of literary depictions of historical trauma.
About the Author
ISAIAH SPIEGEL (1906–1991) won nearly every major prize awarded to Yiddish writers, including the International Culture Congress Prize and the Itsik Manger Prize for Yiddish Literature, and his work found devoted readers throughout the Yiddish diaspora. His books include Ghetto Kingdom: Tales of the Łódź Ghetto (Northwestern University Press, 1998).
JULIAN LEVINSON holds the Samuel Shetzer Chair in American Jewish Studies at the University of Michigan. He is the author of Exiles on Main Street: Jewish American Writers and American Literary Culture, a 2008 National Jewish Book Award Winner.
“Levinson’s beautiful, poetic translation of Isaiah Spiegel’s novel, Flames from the Earth, makes a significant contribution to Holocaust, Jewish, Polish, and Yiddish studies. The dreamy, Symbolist style of the work adds to our repertoire of Holocaust literature, largely dominated by realism. The emphasis on the physical setting, the cinematic use of color, the animation of inanimate objects, and references to worlds of enchantment belong to developments in Yiddish and European modernism. Historical, biographical, and literary-historical framing and contextualization lay out the relevant information about the author, this novel, its place in Holocaust literature, the history of the Łódź Ghetto, and other important facts in a clear, succinct style, accessible to the intended audience.” —Harriet Murav, author of David Bergelson’s Strange New World: Untimeliness and Futurity