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The House of Twenty Thousand Books by Sasha Abramsky

A tender and compellling memoir of the author’s grandparents, their literary salon, and a way of life that is no more.

The House of Twenty Thousand Books is the story of Chimen Abramsky, an extraordinary polymath and bibliophile who amassed a vast collection of socialist literature and Jewish history. For more than fifty years Chimen and his wife, Miriam, hosted epic gatherings in their house of books that brought together many of the age’s greatest thinkers.

The atheist son of one of the century’s most important rabbis, Chimen was born in 1916 near Minsk, spent his early teenage years in Moscow while his father served time in a Siberian labor camp for religious proselytizing, and then immigrated to London, where he discovered the writings of Karl Marx and became involved in left-wing politics.

He briefly attended the newly established Hebrew University in Jerusalem, until World War II interrupted his studies.

Back in England, he married, and for many years he and Miriam ran a respected Jewish bookshop in London’s East End. When the Nazis invaded Russia in June 1941, Chimen joined the Communist Party, becoming a leading figure in the party’s National Jewish Committee. He remained a member until 1958, when, shockingly late in the day, he finally acknowledged the atrocities committed by Stalin. In middle age, Chimen reinvented himself once more, this time as a liberal thinker, humanist, professor, and manuscripts’ expert for Sotheby’s auction house.

Journalist Sasha Abramsky re-creates here a lost world, bringing to life the people, the books, and the ideas that filled his grandparents’ house, from gatherings that included Eric Hobsbawm and Isaiah Berlin to books with Marx’s handwritten notes, William Morris manuscripts and woodcuts, an early sixteenth-century Bomberg Bible, and a first edition of Descartes’s Meditations. The House of Twenty Thousand Books is a wondrous journey through our times, from the vanished worlds of Eastern European Jewry to the cacophonous politics of modernity.

The Book includes 43 photos.

“Sasha Abramsky’s account of his grandfather’s devotion to books and reading is a moving testimonial to the persistance of human curiosity in a world that seems to drift farther and farther from the delight of intellectual pursuits. It is a moving, instructive, astonishing account of one man’s love for the printed word that all readers will appreciate. The House of Twenty Thousand Books deserves twenty hundred thousand readers.”
— Alberto Manguel

Sasha Abramsky was born and raised in the UK, studied politics, philosophy and economics at Balliol College, Oxford, and moved to the US in my early 20s. He has lived and worked in London, New York, and in California. His writings have been published in the Nation magazine, the New Yorker online, the New York Times, Atlantic, Mother Jones, Truthout, Sacramento Magazine, Slate, Salon, and many other publications in the US. In the UK he has written for a number of publications, including the Guardian, the Observer, the Sunday Telegraph, and the New Statesman.

The House of Twenty Thousand Books
by Sasha Abramsky, with a new preface by the author
Publisher: ‎ New York Review Books
Reprint edition 2017
Language: ‎ English
Paperback
376 pages
ISBN-10: ‎ 1681371138
ISBN-13: ‎ 978-1681371139
$17.95

• fleursdumal.nl magazine

More in: #Biography Archives, - Book Lovers, - Book Stories, Alberto Manguel, Archive A-B, Libraries in Literature, Literaire sporen, The Art of Reading

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