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Hardcover Rodinsky's Room Book

ISBN: 1862072574

ISBN13: 9781862072572

Rodinsky's Room

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Format: Hardcover

Condition: Very Good

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Book Overview

Rodinsky's world was that of the East European Jewry, cabbalistic speculation, an obsession with language as code and terrible loss. He touched the imagination of artist Rachel Lichtenstein, whose... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

A misunderstood (and misread) classic

I just finished teaching *Rodinsky's Room* and was amazed to see the variety of misreadings posted here as reviews. Among the many contemporary works of historical recovery or revision, *Rodinsky* stands out because of its alternating -- and often warring -- authors, each of whom has a different purpose in recovering Rodinsky's history, as well as a different form and style through which to accomplish this recovery.Sinclair, the experimental London novelist and essayist, draws on a pastiche of languages and approaches: the short, grotesque sentences of crime novels; classic gothic imagery of the uncanny; filmic montage and surrealist juxtaposition; gossip and rumor and arcane whispers. As he follows Lichtenstein's quest for Rodinsky's history, Sinclair questions traditional ways of fixing history that overexpose, erase, or create a fictional simulacrum of the past. While he is quite aware that his early writings on Rodinsky were the stuff of romantic urban legend, he is also insistant that heritage trusts and yuppie preservationists are no better than the City developers who want to erase the multiple layers of time sedimented in Spitalfields. The latter erase history, while the former use urban myths to increase property values.Lichtenstein's style, while more straight-forward than Sinclair's, is comparable to Paul Auster: a clean, seemingly transparent surface, with a plot built on unexplainable coicidences. If Sinclair is obsessed with the Room as a set for his own fictional musings, Lichtenstein wants to demystify the room, unfix energy from a fetishistic attachment to Rodinsky's objects and redirect it onto the human story of David Rodinsky.And to those reviewers who see Rodinsky as ultimately an ordinary man or a mentally disturbed recluse, I can only ask: did we read the same book? Rodinsky apparently taught himself several ancient languages, was at work on a treatise on the origins of language itself, definitely studied Kabbalah, and maintained himself in near obscurity in the closely-knit Jewish community of Spitalfields. Lichtenstein also debunks the mental illness theory: the behaviors that seemed "crazy" in London would have been totally normal in the Polish community of his grandparents. The very complexity of Rodinsky's identity is used to evoke the heterogeneity and brilliance of a Jewish immigrant community the history of which is currently elided in the pursuit of parking garages, office blocks, and silk weaver garrets.Ultimately, *Rodinsky's Room* is thematically similar to works like Sebald's *The Emigrants* or Amitav Ghosh's *In an Antique Land*, works that explore the porous boundaries between fiction, history, and myth, works that seek to protect history without romanticizing it or cutting it off, museum-like, from the plurality of possible fictions.

Deceptively simple

Gradually this story of one apparently fairly ordinary old Talmudic scholar and how he became emblematic of the diasporaand then of the holocaust. Deceptively simple in the way thestory is slowly revealed, I found this one of the most moving books I have read in several years. Without any dramatic special effects, the authors make the mysterious occupant of PrinceletStreet at once far less of a mystery and far more of a human being. This is a wonderful picture of Jewish immigration to London's East End, but it also helps us understand the kind of loss and sense of yearning which the immigrants from Eastern Europe brought with them into their new place of exile.Anyone interested in Jewish life in London should read this.

Our visit to Rodinsky's Synagogue

On a recent visit to London in search of my wife's roots and her mother's childhood home, we were most fortunate to be permitted to visit the synagogue where Rodinsky lived in an upstairs room. The building is in disrepair but doesn't feel ramshakle. It's generally not open to the public. In fact, we were not permitted to actually visit the upstairs due to unsafe building conditions but did tour the sanctuary and the basement meeting room and kitchen. The building is in the process of being renovated and has applied for historic status under British law. Our tour was arranged as a special favor to a close family member. One gets a distinct sense of a different time and place when standing in the small sanctuary lit from above by an aged stained glass skylight and reading the imprinted names of the long deceased members of the congregation on the wooden beams surrounding the room. My wife and I tried to imagine her grandfather and great-grandfather actually in this room some time long ago, having closed their kosher fish market (two blocks away), bathed, dressed and prepared for the Sabbath. Interestingly, we were told that many of the more politically radical elements of the surrounding community, including Vladimir Lenin, were allowed to use the basement meeting room as a secret place to refine the philosophy that would have such a tremendous impact on the twentieth century. While personal safety didn't permit to see his actual room, the spirit of the neighborhood and of Rodinsky permeated the entire building and helped us focus our thoughts on what such an individual might have done and thought and experienced in this old Jewish neighborhood now, basically, vanished.

Rodinsky's Room

This is an amazing book. Rachel Lichtenstein is a young artist, living in London, England, and Iain Sinclair, who also lives in London,is the celebrated author of Lights Out for the Territory, which was given a fantastic review in the New York Times not long ago. Lichtenstein, whose Jewish paternal grandparents found themselves in the Spitalfields area of London after immigrating from Poland in the early 1930s, became fascinated with the story of David Rodinsky, a Jewish man who lived above a synagogue in Spitalfields and mysteriously disappeared from his attic room in the 1960s. No more was heard of him until the room was re-opened more than a decade later, and was found exactly as he had left it - indentation in the bed where he had lain, half-finished tea on the table and the room strewn not only with books but extraordinary artefacts which only hinted at the kind of man he might have been. Rodinksy became an urban myth, nobody really knew him, or what had happened to him, but many claimed his memory. Lichtenstein tells a straightforward tale of her quest to find out what really happened to David Rodinsky, a tale which is something of a mystery story, while Sinclair reflects on Lichtenstein's quest and places it in the context of the London he knows so well. Rodinsky's Room is part mystery, part biography, part travel guide to an extraordinary part of London. Essential reading for anyone interested in Jewish history, identity, immigration, London, Iain Sinclair's writings. This is somehow more than just a book.

Rodinsky's Room

This is a fascinating story of a search for information, the peeling away of years of misinformation and misunderstanding in an attempt to understand the last years of a lonely man. Along the way, it gives a good rough example of how cities and ethnic communities change. The alternation of authors presents different perspectives on both the man and the search for information while bringing London's East End to life, revealing a place that in most ways doesn't even exist anymore.
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