The Emperor of Lies

The Emperor of Lies

Book - 2011
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Longlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize

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

From one of Sweden's most critically acclaimed and bestselling authors, The Emperor of Lies chronicles the tale of Rumkowski's monarchical rule over a quarter-million Jews for the next four 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. Drawing on the detailed records of life in the Lódz ghetto, Steve Sem-Sandberg captures the full panorama of human resilience and probes deeply into the nature of evil. He asks the most difficult questions: Was Rumkowski a ruthless opportunist, an accessory to the Nazi regime driven by a lust for power? Or was he a pragmatic strategist who managed to save Jewish lives through his collaboration policies?

Winner of the August Prize, Sweden's most important literary award, The Emperor of Lies is a haunting, profoundly challenging novel.

Publisher: Toronto : Anansi International, c2011.
ISBN: 9780887842597
Branch Call Number: SEMSA
Characteristics: 664 p. : map ; 24 cm.

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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.

d
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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