A Life in Letters, 1914-1982

A Life in Letters, 1914-1982

by Gershom Scholem




Perhaps the greatest scholar of Jewish mysticism in the twentieth century, Gershom Scholem (1897-1982) once said of himself, "I have no biography, only a bibliography." Yet, in thousands of letters written over his lifetime, his biography does unfold, inscribing a life that epitomized the intellectual ferment and political drama of an era. This selection of the best and most representative letters—drawn from the 3000 page German edition—gives readers an intimate view of this remarkable man, from his troubled family life in Germany to his emergence as one of the leading lights of Israel during its founding and formative years.

In the letters, we witness the travails and vicissitudes of the Scholem family, a drama in which Gershom is banished by his father for his anti-kaiser Zionist sentiments; his antiwar, socialist brother is hounded and murdered; and his mother and remaining brothers are forced to emigrate. We see Scholem's friendships with some of the most intriguing intellectuals of the twentieth century—such as Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin, and Theodor Adorno—blossom and, on occasion, wither. And we learn firsthand about his Zionist commitment and his scholarly career, from his move to Palestine in the 1920s to his work as Professor of Jewish Mysticism at the Hebrew University. Over the course of seven decades that comprised the most significant events of the twentieth century, these letters reveal how Scholem's scholarship is informed by the experiences he so eloquently described.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674006423
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 03/26/2002
Pages: 560
Product dimensions: 6.38(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)

About the Author

Gershom Scholem (1897–1982), a close friend of Walter Benjamin, was Professor of Jewish Mysticism at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Anthony David Skinner is the author of The Patron: A Life of Salman Schocken.

Table of Contents


I. A Jewish Zarathustra, 1914-1918

II. Unlocking the Gates, 1919-1932

III. Redemption through Sin, 1933-1947

IV. Master Magician Emeritus, 1948-1982


Selected Bibliography



What People are Saying About This

Elisabeth Young-Bruehl

A biography of Gershom Scholem lies in these well selected and edited letters. Reading biographically between the letters' lines, in the manner of Gershom Scholem, Master Scholar, you can learn how he found his own story between the lines of the Kabbalah's texts he almost signlehandedly restored to life; and how he wrote his autobiography out so intensely, with such vast erudition and brilliance, in all his commentaries on the Kaballah that it became, over his lifetime, a biography of the whole endlessly resilient, culturally prolific Jewish people, a 20th century national epic.
Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, author of Hannah Arendt: For Love of the World

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