2015 Man Booker Prize Longlist Announced

The Man Booker Prize 2015 longlist has just been announced. Five American authors are in the group. The selections, alphabetically by author, are:
Bill Clegg (US)-Did You Ever Have a Family
Anne Enright (Ireland)-The Green Road
Marlon James (Jamaica)-A Brief History of Seven Killings
Laila Lalami (US)-The Moor’s Account
Tom McCarthy (UK)-Satin Island
Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria)-The Fishermen
Andrew O’Hagan (UK)-The Illuminations
Marilynne Robinson (US)-Lila
Anuradha Roy (India)-Sleeping on Jupiter
Sunjeev Sahota (UK)-The Year of the Runaways
Anna Smaill (New Zealand)-The Chimes
Anne Tyler (US)-A Spool of Blue Thread
Hanya Yanagihara (US)-A Little Life

Man Booker 2015 Longlist to be announced Wednesday, July 29


man booker prize 2015 blurb

Those of you who have been following my blog during the last four years know how keenly interested I am in the Man Booker Prize competition. The announcement of the 2015 longlist is July 29th, sometime between noon and 5 pm, London Time. Then on September 25th, the elimination process results in the selection of the shortlist. Finally the winner is declared on October 13th. Not all longlisted books will be available on July 29th. Obviously more in the UK than in the States. If not already, consider becoming a follower of my blog, and get Man Booker updates and book reviews throughout the selection process.

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A Shehecheyanu for King Boris

Anne, Harriet, Ken and I entered the foyer of the Sophia Synagogue and we were greeted by a short, slightly stooped looking old man who spoke with quiet authority. He said that he would get back to us soon, after he finished his discussion with some other tourists who were speaking to him in Spanish. A few minutes later he returned, and began to give us a tour of the synagogue.
It was an amazing edifice. The second largest synagogue still standing in Europe. Designed by a Viennese architect, both the exterior and interior exude grace and elegance, with one of the most beautiful chandeliers that I have ever seen prominently hanging from the high ceiling.
After the formalities of the tour, our guide requested that we sit down in the front pew. He had something more to tell us; something very personal. Standing closely in front of us, one could see the sadness of his face. This was a man who had known suffering.
He said his name was Leon Bentov, and that he was born in Sofia in 1936. His family, as most Bulgarian Jews then, were Sephardic, and they spoke Ladino at home. This explained his fluency with the Spanish visitors.
Leon told us most Bulgarians wanted neutrality at the onset of the Second War, but a deal was eventually struck between the Nazi Germans and the Bulgarian fascists to seal an alliance between the two nations. According to Joseph, the ruling monarch of that time, King Boris, The Third, felt that he had no choice but to go along with this “unholy alliance.” Meanwhile Bulgaria was given administrative control of some areas of Macedonia and Greece by the Germans as part of the deal.
Leon strongly believes that King Boris worked cunningly, and stealthily, and yes, heroically, to save the lives of the 45,000 Jews within the borders of Bulgaria. Bulgarian Jews were relocated throughout the land, assigned to forced labor,  and yet they still lived in private homes, and not camps. Although a child at the time, Leon recalled these tragic memories vividly to us. He flinched as he described to us how all the Jews had to wear the identifying Star of David patches on their shirts and blouses when they were outside. I thought that I could discern a tear or two in his eyes.
While the neighboring Romanian, Greek and Macedonian Jews were shipped off to the death camps, the Bulgaria Jewish community remained intact, emotionally scarred, but alive. Scholars and politicians today all have various opinions on how this happened. Some say it was the moral, and highly public stance, of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church in opposing the deportations that kept the Jews from death. Others claim that some Bulgarian political leaders, although officially supporting the Nazis aims, were, in fact, doing their all to protect their Jewish citizens.
In the end, after the Red Army liberated Bulgaria in 1944, after four years of German Nazi control, Bulgaria’s 45,000 Jews somehow survived, although the Greek and Macedonian Jews residing under Bulgarian authority were deported to the death camps. A messy, tragic story in so many ways, and yet the Bulgarian Jews made it out of the maelstrom of the Holocaust alive. Leon wholeheartedly contends that King Boris was the Bulgarian Jews protector. He lived through those terrible times, so who am I to question his belief?
After the establishment of Israel, Bulgarian Jews, for the most part, made Aliyah to the Jewish state. Leon is one of about 3500 Jews who still remain. His ex-wife and one son live in Israel; the other son lives in the States. He told us sadly that they couldn’t find a tenth man for a minyan at prayers that morning at the synagogue.
As we announced our intention to leave and see other sites in Sofia, Leon offered to be our tour guide. “Free of charge,” he said. It was as if he wanted to cling to us, to not let go of a new emotional connection. We thanked him, and let him know we preferred to be on our own, as we went on our way.
The next day, we left Sophia for further travels. We stopped at St. John of Rila, Bulgaria’s most beautiful and historically significant monastery. In one of the incredibly stunning chapels there, Illuminated by thousands of candles,Harriet and I espied the bier of King Boris, The Third. We looked at each other, and nodded, and instinctively started reciting the shehecheyanu (the Hebrew blessing of praise) together, surrounded by the flickering candles and the icons of saints.

The Jewish Community in Rogers Park

BZ Int

B’nai Zion was the first synagogue established in Rogers Park in 1919. The Conservative congregation moved into its magnificent building at 1447 West Pratt Blvd. in 1926. It soon became a bedrock of the Rogers Park Jewish community for years to come. B’nai Zion, as well as many other religious, cultural, social and political aspects of Jewish Rogers Park, will be part of my presentation on “The Jewish Community in Rogers Park” at the Rogers Park Library on August 12 at 6:30 pm. The library is located at 6907 N. Clark Street. The event is sponsored by the Rogers Park/West Ridge Historical Society.

Kathleen Rooney at the Cliff Dwellers Book Club

Kathleen Rooney

Kathleen Rooney will be discussing her debut novel, O, Democracy! at the Cliff Dwellers book club this coming Saturday, July 25, at 11:00 am. Kathleen is also a poet, essayist and college professor, as well as the founding editor of Rose Metal Press. She is truly a woman of infinite talent! Our discussions are always more animated when the author is present. The Cliff Dwellers is located at 200 South Michigan, across the street from the Art Institute. There is no charge to attend. You are encouraged to stay for lunch to continue the conversation.

James Joyce’s Ulysses: A Literary Voyage

Ulysses Image

James Joyce’s Ulysses is arguably the greatest novel ever written in the English language. On the surface, it is a story of Leopold Bloom, as he travels and travails through Dublin and its environs during the day of June 16, 1904. The reader soon recognizes the genius of Joyce through the book’s fantastic dialogue and cascading narrative. The marvelous cast of characters leaps forward out of Joyce’s unbridled imagination and into the reader’s mind and soul. This Fall semester, at the Oakton Community College Emeritus Program, I will be teaching a course on this often daunting, but transformative, literary masterpiece. There will be ten sessions, Tuesday mornings from 10:00 am to 11:30 am, at the Skokie campus of Oakton. The first class is September 29; the last class is December 1. Registration for the course begins in mid-July. I hope some of you decide to join us on this literary voyage. Please share this with interested friends.