A Jewish Vocation

by Mark Chmiel

This week I finished Marcel Reich-Ranicki‘s autobiography,  The Author of Himself.  He was a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto and the foremost literary critic in post-war Germany.  As I read him, I thought of my friend Hedy Epstein, whose family, like Reich-Ranicki’s, was killed in the Holocaust.  She admitted that from 1945 to 1970, she hated all things German until she had a surprising insight.

Once, when Reich-Ranicki was in China, he unexpectedly ran into Yehudi Menuhin: “I asked him what he was doing there. He answered briefly: ‘Beethoven  and Brahms with the local orchestra.’ And what was I doing? ‘I’m giving lectures on Goethe and Thomas Mann.’ Menuhin was silent but not for long:  ‘Ah, well, we’re Jews of course.’ After a moment he added: ‘That we travel from country to country, spreading German music and German literature, and interpreting it—that’s good and how it should be.’”

Marcel Reich-Ranicki, deutscher Schriftsteller und Literaturkritiker. | German writer and literary critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki (born 1920)., 10.06.1970

Marcel Reich-Ranicki, deutscher Schriftsteller und Literaturkritiker. | German writer and literary critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki (born 1920)., 10.06.1970

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