Although last year’s Nobel Prize in Literature went to a deserving Jewish candidate, in some respects the prize-giving and receiving process was a shondeh, that ever-current Yiddish word meaning disgrace. Not least when Bob Dylan, the honoree, plagiarized portions of his Nobel Prize lecture from SparkNotes, an online version of CliffsNotes, according to Slate. Favorites for this year’s prize, to be announced on October 5 include Kenya’s Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o and Japan’s Haruki Murakami. Another is Claudio Magris, an Italian Germanist, essayist, and critic who has referred to himself as an “honorary Jew.” That’s because his literary career, including such highlights as “Journeying,” “Microcosms,” and especially “Danube,” was much inspired by Yiddishkeit. “Danube” is an evocation of the Central European river, paying tribute to such writers as Franz Kafka, Elias Canetti, and Joseph Roth. Magris offers a message of international unity and cooperation at a time of world border closings, Brexit, and ultra-nationalism. A chipper 78-year-old, Magris battles against Babel and other forces that separate people. In German- and French-language interviews, he is almost as voluble as in his native tongue, although his spoken English remains relatively deliberate and lumpy. English language readers may nonetheless savor in translation his […]

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