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Novel based on Jew ‘catcher’ Stella Kübler stirs controversy

It tells the fictionalized true story of a woman who gave up her fellow Jews to the Nazis. Critics have condemned the novel Stella by Takis Würger, published this week in Germany, as "Holocaust kitsch." "We have a new literature debate," wrote Hannah Lühmann of the Die Welt newspaper when reflecting on the bombshell publication of Stella, a novel by journalist, author and war correspondent Takis Würger. Published by the prestigious Hanser Verlag on January 11, Stella fictionalizes the true story of Jewess Stella Kübler (née Goldschlag), who as a so-called "catcher" betrayed other Jews gone underground to the Gestapo. 'Nazi story for dummies?' Würger's second novel was inspired by the award-winning journalist's fascination for the subject. But while it's too early to judge the success of this study of a character who is already a book subject — for example, Peter Wyden's Stella: One Woman's True Tale of Evil, Betrayal, and Survival in Hitler's Germany — the vehement response to the novel by German critics has been striking. The Süddeutsche Zeitung reviewer wrote on January 11 that Stella is "an outrage, an insult and a real offense." Moreover, the work was described as "the symbol of an industry that seems to have lost any ethical or aesthetic scale if it wants to sell such a book as a valuable contribution to the memory of the Shoah." The critic further accused the author of having written the novel "without any awareness of the problem of literature, literacy and history." A reviewer for Die Zeit was equally scathing. "An abomination in children's book style: Takis Würger writes in Stella about a Jewish woman who becomes an accomplice in the Nazi era. It's a novel full of narrative clichés." Public radio broadcaster Deutschlandfunk described it as "Holocaust kitsch" and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung asked: "Why this Nazi story for dummies?" Publishers weigh in Florian Kessler, cultural journalist and editor at Hanser Verlag, deflected the criticism on social media. In a detailed Facebook post, he responded, among other things, to the allegation by the Süddeutsche Zeitung that the novel would instrumentalize the Holocaust. "One can only answer: this discussion … rightly pervades the literature since '45," he wrote of a debate that has raged around so-called Holocaust literature in the postwar period. Kessler noted that Bernhard Schlink's novel The Reader, which became a hit Hollywood film, was also accused in the 1990s of mixing clichés and Holocaust instrumentalization. Shortly thereafter, he read the book at school in class.\ "We also talked about such allegations against it, and through the book's ambivalences and problems, we had very important and formative discussions about the Nazi period in my entire school years," he wrote. Read more: Holocaust satirist Elgar Hilsenrath dies at 92 Let the public decide Hannah Lühman of Die Welt was also surprised by the ferocity of the critical slating. But while she defended the novel as a whole, she added that many questions of course remain regarding, for example, "the choice of historical material; this extreme story of a Jewish woman who has betrayed hundreds of Jews to the Gestapo; what fantasies it may satisfy among non-Jewish Germans reading it." But she refused, according to Lühmann in his Facebook post, "to join in this scandal." It remains to be seen how the reading public will respond to Stella. Interest has been high in Germany, with the book launch and author reading in Hamburg on Monday sold out weeks in advance. And the novel has already garnered international attention: So far, nine foreign licenses have been sold, with the book set to be published in English, French, Spanish and Chinese, among others.

It tells the fictionalized true story of a woman who gave up her fellow Jews to the Nazis. Critics have condemned the novel Stella by Takis Würger, published this week in Germany, as “Holocaust kitsch.” “We have a new literature debate,” wrote Hannah Lühmann of the Die Welt newspaper when reflecting on the bombshell publication of Stella, a novel by ... Read More »

Amos Oz wins major German literature award

Renowned Israeli author Amos Oz is the winner of Germany's International Literature Prize. His novel "Judas," a socially relevant tale of treachery and mystery, has struck a nerve in Germany. "How secure can Jewish people feel on this planet?" asked Amos Oz, one of Israel's most significant writers, in an August 2014 interview with DW. "I think not about the last 20 or 50 years, but about the last 2,000 years," he continued. His statement almost sounds like a comment on his novel, "Judas," published at the time in Hebrew. Like all of his novels and stories - certainly since "A Tale of Love and Darkness" in 2002 - his latest work also focuses on the fundamental questions of Israel's existence: the founding of the state in the aftermath of the Holocaust, the wars it's been through, and conflicts with the Palestinians. The 76-year-old author masters the art of tackling huge topics with a minimum of means. He has created "Judas" as an intimate play between five characters, three living and two dead. In the late 1950s, three generations live together in a house on the outskirts of the historic center of Jerusalem. Shmuel Ash sees himself forced to find work. His father's company is ruined; his livelihood has vanished together with his girlfriend. The failed theology student takes on a job talking with and reading to a highly educated disabled man named Gershom Wald. Ash is compensated with accommodations, plus a bit of pocket money. From then on, he shares a quiet house with Wald and his widowed daughter-in-law, Athaliah. He's forbidden from talking about his work and living situation, but not told why. "Jesus in the eyes of the Jews" was the topic of Ash's originally planned master thesis, which gave him plenty to talk about with his elderly employer. The complicated relationship between the residents of the house comes out only very gradually. The mysterious, childless daughter-in-law, who could well be his mother, was the wife of Gershom Wald's son, Micha. He is one of the two dead whose presence can be felt. The other one is Athaliah's famous father, Shealtiel Abrabanel, a fictional opponent of Israel's first Prime Minsiter Ben Gurion. Amos Oz describes Abrabanel with all his psychological contradictions. While fighting for a peaceful coexistence with the Palestinians, which made him an outsider in the eyes of the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organization, he did not have any love left for his daughter. He was branded a traitor - a Judas, the figure which has become a target of the deepest anti-Semitic feelings. A novel that spans millennia "Judas" is a philosophical novel based on theological literature that focuses on the question of treason. Why should Judas have betrayed Jesus for a mere 30 silver coins'? Wasn't it Judas who worshiped his master more than all the other disciples and only wanted to see proof of Jesus' power and his ability to save himself from the cross? The answer to that question, which is repeated over and over again in the novel, is not only theological, but of global political significance. The depiction of the crucifixion of Jesus from the perspective of Judas is one of the most impressive parts of the book. Equally impressive is how Amos Oz manages to evoke the atmosphere of Jerusalem in the winter of 1959/60. In the dense, gray air it is clear that the love story ensuing between the daughter-in-law and the curly-haired student Ash has been doomed right from the outset. Although time itself seems to have come to a halt, the historical turbulences not only of recent decades but of the past 2,000 years are reflected in the conversations, losses and hopes of the three roommates. Author Amos Oz and Mirjam Pressler, who translated "Judas" into German, will be presented with their award on July 8 in Berlin. The International Literature Prize, in its seventh year, is presented by the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (House of World Cultures) and the Elementarteilchen Foundation in Hamburg.

Renowned Israeli author Amos Oz is the winner of Germany’s International Literature Prize. His novel “Judas,” a socially relevant tale of treachery and mystery, has struck a nerve in Germany. “How secure can Jewish people feel on this planet?” asked Amos Oz, one of Israel’s most significant writers, in an August 2014 interview with DW. “I think not about the ... Read More »

Pussy Galore returns in new James Bond novel

The latest James Bond novel, by British author Anthony Horowitz, sees a reunion between 007 and the famous Bond girl from "Goldfinger," Pussy Galore. It is based on never-produced TV material conceived by Ian Fleming. Titled "Trigger Mortis," Anthony Horowitz's Bond book is set to be released in September. It picks up just where the "Goldfinger" novel ends, in 1957. Actress Honor Blackman portrayed what is considered to be the most famous Bond girl of all time - Pussy Galore - in the 1964 film version of "Goldfinger." The mysterious blond makes a comeback in Horowitz's new novel, which is packed full of additional surprises for the wily secret agent. The story takes James Bond into the world of motor racing and includes other familiar characters like M and Miss Moneypenny. Ian Fleming (1908-1964), the original Bond author, wrote several episodes for a Bond television series that never came about. Portions of the screenplays were turned into short stories and are part of the collections "For Your Eyes Only," "Octopussy" and "The Living Daylights." A few of the sketches, however, have never been used and will be adapted in "Trigger Mortis." Anthony Horowitz, 60, is one of the UK's most prolific writers and has said he is a life-long fan of Ian Fleming. He follows writers Sebastian Faulks, Jeffrey Deaver and William Boyd in picking up the Bond adventure tales. Only authors approved by Fleming's estate are permitted to accept the mission. Horowitz has also authored the bestselling teen spy series "Alex Rider," as well as the "Midsommer Murders" and "Foyle's War" television series, and penned Sherlock Holmes novels. Regarding the Bond project, Horowitz said in a statement on Orion Publisher's website: "It's a huge challenge - more difficult even than Sherlock Holmes in some ways - but having original, unpublished material by Fleming has been an inspiration. This is a book I had to write."

The latest James Bond novel, by British author Anthony Horowitz, sees a reunion between 007 and the famous Bond girl from “Goldfinger,” Pussy Galore. It is based on never-produced TV material conceived by Ian Fleming. Titled “Trigger Mortis,” Anthony Horowitz’s Bond book is set to be released in September. It picks up just where the “Goldfinger” novel ends, in 1957. ... Read More »

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