The best anthology books that bring sources to light

Judith Glatzer Wechsler Author Of The Memoirs of Nahum N. Glatzer
By Judith Glatzer Wechsler

Who am I?

I am an art historian and was professor of art history at MIT, Tufts, Harvard, and elsewhere. As an undergraduate I studied Jewish history and philosophy and subsequently was assistant editor at Schocken Books focusing on art history and history of ideas. My graduate work was in art history, first in medieval manuscripts and then 19th century French art. I’ve written four books, edited four others, and made 30 documentaries, mostly on art. The French government knighted me “Chevalier dans l’ordre des arts et des lettres.”

I co-edited...

The Memoirs of Nahum N. Glatzer

By Michael Fishbane (editor), Judith Glatzer Wechsler (editor),

Book cover of The Memoirs of Nahum N. Glatzer

What is my book about?

This book has particular meaning and importance to me. Drawn from the diaries of my father, they reveal a more intimate look of this renowned scholar at a time of political upheaval and exile. The memoirs trace Nahum Glatzer’s life from childhood in Lemberg (Lviv) in Austro-Hungary, through adolescence in Silesia and onto Frankfort and his encounters with Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig. A life of scholarship and deep humanity, as chief editor of Schocken Books, he, along with Hannah Arendt, brought much of the writings of Franz Kafka to an English reading audience. The Memoirs of Nahum N. Glatzer evokes a life in exile, transmitting and sustaining the German-Jewish tradition through his many publications and teaching over generations.  

The books I picked & why

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Kafka: I Am a Memory Come Alive: Autobiographical Writings

By Franz Kafka, Nahum N.Glatzer (editor),

Book cover of Kafka: I Am a Memory Come Alive: Autobiographical Writings

Why this book?

This book, unique in its construction, gave me a deeper insight into this leading author of the 20th century. We all know and may use the term “Kafkaesque” we don’t necessarily know from whence the term and its experience comes. This biography, drawing from Kafka’s own writings, documents his life in his own words. Glatzer has masterfully edited excerpts from the writer’s diaries, letters, and published works to create an autobiography that Kafka “contemplated but never wrote.” Kafka’s world view, the Kafkaesque, is vividly evoked.

Walter Benjamin: A Critical Life

By Howard Eiland, Michael W. Jennings,

Book cover of Walter Benjamin: A Critical Life

Why this book?

This remarkable biography has been hugely important to me in the understanding of the great German writer and critic Walter Benjamin. His essays, particularly on the 19th century Arcades, were the basis of my study, "A Human Comedy, Physiognomy and Caricature in 19th century Paris". Eiland and Jennings biography, based on enormous research, introduce us to this complex and enigmatic character and his brilliant criticism.

They provide a revealing portrait of his brief life in the shadow of European catastrophe. Their consummate understanding of Benjamin’s complex layered work gives new insight into this highly influential thinker. A scholarly work of the first order, written with wisdom and  compassion.

The Future of Nostalgia

By Svetlana Boym,

Book cover of The Future of Nostalgia

Why this book?

I met Svetlana in the last two years of her life and was deeply impressed by her brilliance in literature and the history of ideas and cultures. She died, tragically, in her mid 50s cutting short her extraordinary career, from childhood and youth in Soviet Russia to her stellar career as a Harvard professor of comparative literature. Of her seven books, this highly original study of nostalgia has been particularly important.

A ground breaking study about longing in its positive and negative forms, focusing on post-communist cities such as St. Petersburg, Moscow and Berlin, and writers Nabokov, Brodsky, and Kabakov. Erudite, brilliant, and witty, this is a great cross-genre study of our modern condition.

Martin Buber: A Life of Faith and Dissent

By Paul Mendes-Flohr,

Book cover of Martin Buber: A Life of Faith and Dissent

Why this book?

Paul Mendes-Flohr is a great scholar of modern German Jewish philosophy. A man of extraordinary erudition and humanity, I am always moved by his deeply insightful books. His work means very much to me.

This is a superb biography of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, conveying the range of his thought in the context of his life and times. Mendes-Flohr captures the complexities of this influential thinker, who many know for his revolutionary concept of “I and Thou” in religion and human relations.

Dimensions of Job: A Study and Selected Readings

By Nahum N. Glatzer,

Book cover of Dimensions of Job: A Study and Selected Readings

Why this book?

In this time of violence and rise of racism, authoritarianism, the Holocaust, the question of evil, its sources, its manifestations matter to me, and anyone of conscious. Glatzer lived through the rise of Nazism and Communism, and, as a person of religious faith, had to contend with the question of evil in our world today, and its challenges to religious belief. This book grew out of a course Prof. Glatzer taught over the years to thousands of students.

Job and the problem of evil was a central concern for Glatzer, as a scholar and as a humanist. In this book he compiles modern commentaries on the theme of Job, from Judaic, Christian and general philosophical tradition, including Kierkegaard and Martin Buber. In his lengthy introduction, Glatzer traces the interpretations from the Church Fathers, the medieval rabbis, and classical philosophers. 

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