People Love Dead Jews
Renowned and beloved as a prizewinning novelist, Dara Horn has also been publishing penetrating essays since she was a teenager. Often asked by major publications to write on subjects related to Jewish culture-and increasingly in response to a recent wave of deadly antisemitic attacks-Horn was troubled to realise what all of these assignments had in common: she was being asked to write about dead Jews, never about living ones. In these essays, Horn reflects on subjects as far-flung as the international veneration of Anne Frank, the mythology that Jewish family names were changed at Ellis Island, the blockbuster travelling exhibition Auschwitz, the marketing of the Jewish history of Harbin, China and the little-known life of the “righteous Gentile” Varian Fry. Throughout, she challenges us to confront the reasons why there might be so much fascination with Jewish deaths, yet so little respect for Jewish lives unfolding in the present.
Horn draws upon her travels, her research and also her own family life-trying to explain Shakespeare’s Shylock to a curious ten-year-old, her anger when swastikas are drawn on desks in her children’s school, the profound perspective offered by traditional religious practice and study-to assert the vitality, complexity and depth of Jewish life against an antisemitism that, far from being disarmed by the mantra of “Never forget”, is on the rise. As Horn explores the (not so) shocking attacks on the American Jewish community in recent years, she reveals the subtler dehumanisation built into the public piety that surrounds the Jewish past-making the radical argument that the benign reverence we give to past horrors is itself a profound affront to human dignity.
"People Love Dead Jews reminds us that Jewishness is not a museum, a graveyard, or a heritage site but a lively ongoing conversation at a long table that stretches before and behind us." -- David Mikics - The Tablet "A fascinating read..." -- Keren David - The Jewish Chronicle "Dara Horn's People Love Dead Jews [is] an essential sequel to David Baddiel's Jews Don't Count" -- Simon Schama, via Twitter "So necessary and so disquieting... People Love Dead Jews is an outstanding book with a bold mission. It criticizes people, artworks, and public institutions that few others dare to challenge." -- Yaniv Iczkovits - The New York Times Book Review "Extremely engaging... Horn will make you think." -- Jeffrey Salkin - Washington Post "Dara Horn has an uncommon mastery of the literary essay, and she applies it here with a relentless, even furious purpose. Horn makes well-worn debates-on Anne Frank and Hannah Arendt, for instance-newly provocative and urgent. Her best essays are by turns tragic and comic, and her magnificent mini biography of Varian Fry alone justifies paying the full hardcover price." -- Tom Reiss, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo "This is a beautiful book, and in its particular genre-nonfiction meditations on the murder of Jews, particularly in the Holocaust, and the place of the dead in the American imagination-it can have few rivals. In fact, I can't think of any." -- Martin Peretz - Wall Street Journal "[Horn] wants a more direct reckoning with Jew hatred and its consequences." -- 100 Notable Books of 2021 - The New York Times
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