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Rodger Kamenetz’s new book connects Rabbi Nachman, Franz Kafka, a turkey, and a cockroach

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(Collage Abigail Miller/Tablet Magazine; turkey: The Illustrated Natural History; cockroach: Wikimedia Commons)

Rodger Kamenetz’s Burnt Books, the latest volume in the Nextbook Press Jewish Encounters series, is a dual biography of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav and Franz Kafka, the great surrealist writer. Both men left instructions that their writings be destroyed after their deaths, nearly a century apart; both men’s wishes were ignored. In time, both men became icons: On Rosh Hashanah each year, thousands of Jews make a pilgrimage to Nachman’s grave in Ukraine; debate rages still over the fate of Kafka’s papers. Kamenetz sees Nachman and Kafka as kindred spirits, men whose works speak to one another about the challenges of maintaining tradition in the face of modernity.

Kamenetz spoke to Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry about the two men, about the relationship each had to the Haskalah, the Jewish Enlightenment, and about how Nachman’s fable about a turkey responds to Kafka’s tale of an insect. Running time: 17:57. 

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Shriber says:

I was hoping that Shmuel Yosef Agnon’s work would have been mentioned in this context.

M. Brukhes says:

I agree, Agnon is one of the missing links that makes the transition between Reb Nachman and Kafka, by way of modern literature in Hebrew and Yiddish, comprehensible; if Reb Nachman and Kafka are second cousins, Agnon is a first cousin to them both!

Shalom Freedman says:

I have not read this book though I would like to.
It seems to me however that Reb Nachman and Kafka are polar opposites in spirit and mood.
Kafka by the way died in 1924 and not as indicated in this interview.

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Boker Tov , for the record I graduated Kaminetz Yeshiva in Boro Park. Harev Krupenia was our Rosh Yeshiva. Your family?Trivia in Poland whom was Harav Krupenia’s Chavrusa when Harav Krupenia was studying in Kollel for Simicha?

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Rodger Kamenetz’s new book connects Rabbi Nachman, Franz Kafka, a turkey, and a cockroach

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