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    eBook: The House of Twenty Thousand Books

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    EAN / ISBN
    9781905559657

    Category
    Biographies

    Pages
    336

    Publisher
    Halban

    Published

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    The House of Twenty Thousand Books (eBook)

    This is the story of Sasha Abramsky’s grandparents, Chimen and Miriam Abramsky, and of their unique home at 5 Hillway, around the corner from Hampstead Heath.In their semi-detached house, so deceptively ordinary from the outside, the Abramskys created a remarkable House of Books. It became the repository for Chimen’s collection of thousands upon thousands of books, manuscripts and other printed, handwritten and painted documents, representing his journey through the great political, philosophical, religious and ethical debates that have shaped the western world.Chimen Abramsky was barely a teenager when his father, a famous rabbi, was arrested by Stalin’s secret police and sentenced to five years hard labour in Siberia, and fifteen when his family was exiled to London. Lacking a university degree, he nevertheless became a polymath, always obsessed with collecting ideas, with capturing the meanderings of the human soul through the world of great thoughts and thinkers. Rejecting his father’s Orthodoxy, he became a Communist, made his living as a book-dealer and amassed a huge, and astonishingly rare, library of socialist literature and memorabilia. Disillusioned with Communism and belatedly recognising the barbarity at the core of Stalin’s project, he transformed himself once more, this time into a liberal and a humanist. To his socialist library was added a vastrove of Jewish history volumes. Chimen ended his career as Professor of Hebrew and Jewish studies at UCL, London and rare manuscripts expert for Sotheby’s.With his wife Miriam, Chimen made their house a focal point for left-wing intellectual Jewish life: hundreds of the world’s leading thinkers, from at their table. The House of Twenty Thousand Books brings alive this latter-day salon by telling the story of Chimen Abramsky’s love affair with ideas and with the world of books and of Miriam’s obsession with being a hostess and with entertaining. Room by room, book by book, idea by idea, the world of these politically engaged intellectuals, autodidacts and dreamers is lovingly resurrected.In this extraordinary elegy to a lost world, Sasha Abramsky’s passionate narrative brings to life once more not just the Hillway salon, but the ideas, the conflicts, the personalities and the human yearnings that animated it.‘The sheer richness of this marvellous book – in terms of its style, think Borges, Perec – amply complements the wondrous complexity of the family – in terms of its subject-matter, think the Eitingons, the Ephrussi – about which Sasha Abramsky writes so lovingly. And as a portrait of London's left-wing Jewish intellectual life it is surely without equal.’Simon Winchester‘I loved this touching and heartfelt celebration of a scholar, teacher and bibliophile, a man whose profound learning was fine-tempered by humane wisdom and self-knowledge. We might all of us envy Sasha Abramsky in possessing such a remarkable grandfather, heroic in his integrity and evoked for us here with real eloquence and affection.’Jonathan Keates‘Sasha Abramsky has combined four kinds of history – familial, political, Jewish, and literary – into one brilliant and compelling book. With him as an erudite and sensitive guide, any reader will be grateful for the opportunity to be immersed into the house of twenty thousand books.’Samuel Freedman ‘The House of Twenty Thousand Books is a grandson's elegy for the vanished world of his grandparents’ house in London and the exuberant, passionate jostling of two traditions ¬– Jewish and Marxist – that intertwined in his growing up. It is a fascinating memoir of the fatal encounter between Russian Jewish yearning for freedom and the Stalinist creed, a grandson's unsparing, but loving reckoning with a conflicted inheritance. In the digital age, it will also make you long for the smell of old books, the dust on shelves and the collector's passions, all on display in The House of Twenty Thousand Books.’Michael Ignatieff

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    Stand: 23.06.2020

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    Stand: 01.07.2015