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In this finely crafted critical biography, Amir Engel provides a corrective to much of the vast literature on the enigmatic, but highly influential, twentieth century figure Gershom Scholem. Engel contends that Scholem’s major achievement lies not in his scholarly discoveries but in his creation. Rather than finding the truth of the Kabbalah, he molded the vast literature of Jewish mystical lore into narratives, indeed stories, which entail new truths. Positioning Scholem’s narratives in the context in which they were originally told, Engel discusses two interrelated stories: the story of Scholem’s life and the story he told in his historiography. Gershom Scholem: An Intellectual Biography describes Scholem’s formative years starting with his early adolescence before the First World War and ending when he reached recognition as an established Scholar in the 1950’s. It discusses Scholem’s early activism in the Zionist youth movements in Berlin, his activism against World War One, his insistent search for father figures, and his ultimate failures. It continues with a discussion of the crisis Scholem underwent after immigrating to Palestine, his activism and the events that led him to rethink his politics. Finally, it describes Scholem’s retreat from politics: his realization that his vision of Zionism was undone by powers much greater than his own. Simultaneously, this book offers a contextualized study of Scholem’s major historiographical works. For Scholem’s study of the mystical lore cannot be separated from his political activism, his demands to renew a dying nation, and the events he experienced in his life. Among other aspects of his historiography, the book discusses Scholem’s interpretation of the Kabbalistic myth of exile, the Messianic misadventure of Sabbatai Zevi, and the aftermath of the Sabbatian debacle. Beyond offering a novel perspective on Scholem, this book opens a unique window onto some of the fundamental questions and problems of the first half of the 20th century in central Europe and in Israel/ Palestine.
Number of Pages: 226
Genre: Biography + Autobiography, Religion + Beliefs
Sub-Genre: History, Mysticism
Series Title: Studies in German-jewish Cultural History and Literature
Publisher: Univ of Chicago Pr
Author: Amir Engel
Street Date: March 17, 2017
Item Number (DPCI): 248-28-8478
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