Please join us at the Uptown JCC for a lecture and booksigning by Rodger Kamenets featuring his new work, BURNT BOOKS: Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav and Franz Kafka.
Rodger Kamenetz's groundbreaking dual biography of the venerated Hasidic storyteller Rabbi Nachman and the iconic modern master Franz Kafka uncovers surprising parallels between two tragically abbreviated lives, both spent in search of spiritual meaning.
Rodger Kamenetz, acclaimed author of The Jew in the Lotus, has
long been fascinated by the mystical tales of the Hasidic master Rabbi
Nachman of Bratslav. And for many years he has taught a course in Prague
on Franz Kafka. The more he thought about their lives and writings, the
more aware he became of unexpected connections between them. Kafka was a
secular artist fascinated by Jewish mysticism, and Rabbi Nachman was a
religious mystic who used storytelling to reach out to secular Jews.
Both men died close to age forty of tuberculosis. Both invented new
forms of storytelling that explore the search for meaning in an
illogical, unjust world. Both gained prominence with the posthumous
publication of their writing. And both left strict instructions at the
end of their lives that their unpublished books be burnt.
Kamenetz takes his ideas on the road, traveling to Kafka’s birthplace in Prague and participating in the pilgrimage to Uman, the burial site of Rabbi Nachman visited by thousands of Jews every Jewish new year. He discusses the hallucinatory intensity of their visions and offers a rich analysis of Nachman’s and Kafka’s major works, revealing uncanny similarities in the inner lives of these two troubled and beloved figures, whose creative and religious struggles have much to teach us about the significant role played by the imagination in the Jewish spiritual experience.
Rodger Kamenetz is the author of The Jew in the Lotus and The History of Last Night’s Dream, and of seven other books of poetry and prose. A winner of the National Jewish Book Award, he recently retired as LSU Distinguished Professor at Louisiana State University and was founding director of its Jewish Studies Program. He lives in New Orleans with his wife, the novelist Moira Crone, and works as a dream therapist.
Part of the Jewish Encounter series