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The Lost
Cover of The Lost
The Lost
A Search for Six of Six Million
Borrow Borrow

A New York Times Notable Book • Winner of the National Jewish Book Award • Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award • A Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist

"A gripping detective story, a stirring epic, a tale of ghosts and dark marvels, a thrilling display of scholarship, a meditation on the unfathomable mystery of good and evil, a testimony to the enduring power of the ancient archetypes that haunt one Jewish family and the greater human family, The Lost is as complex and rich with meaning and story as the past it seeks to illuminate. A beautiful book, beautifully written." — Michael Chabon

In this rich and riveting narrative, a writer's search for the truth behind his family's tragic past in World War II becomes a remarkably original epic—part memoir, part reportage, part mystery, and part scholarly detective work—that brilliantly explores the nature of time and memory, family and history.

The Lost begins as the story of a boy who grew up in a family haunted by the disappearance of six relatives during the Holocaust—an unmentionable subject that gripped his imagination from earliest childhood. Decades later, spurred by the discovery of a cache of desperate letters written to his grandfather in 1939 and tantalized by fragmentary tales of a terrible betrayal, Daniel Mendelsohn sets out to find the remaining eyewitnesses to his relatives' fates. That quest eventually takes him to a dozen countries on four continents and forces him to confront the wrenching discrepancies between the histories we live and the stories we tell. And it leads him, finally, back to the small Ukrainian town where his family's story began, and where the solution to a decades-old mystery awaits him.

Deftly moving between past and present, interweaving a world-wandering odyssey with childhood memories of a now-lost generation of immigrant Jews and provocative ruminations on biblical texts and Jewish history, The Lost transforms the story of one family into a profound, morally searching meditation on our fragile hold on the past. Deeply personal, grippingly suspenseful, and beautifully written, this literary tour de force illuminates all that is lost, and found, in the passage of time.

A New York Times Notable Book • Winner of the National Jewish Book Award • Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award • A Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist

"A gripping detective story, a stirring epic, a tale of ghosts and dark marvels, a thrilling display of scholarship, a meditation on the unfathomable mystery of good and evil, a testimony to the enduring power of the ancient archetypes that haunt one Jewish family and the greater human family, The Lost is as complex and rich with meaning and story as the past it seeks to illuminate. A beautiful book, beautifully written." — Michael Chabon

In this rich and riveting narrative, a writer's search for the truth behind his family's tragic past in World War II becomes a remarkably original epic—part memoir, part reportage, part mystery, and part scholarly detective work—that brilliantly explores the nature of time and memory, family and history.

The Lost begins as the story of a boy who grew up in a family haunted by the disappearance of six relatives during the Holocaust—an unmentionable subject that gripped his imagination from earliest childhood. Decades later, spurred by the discovery of a cache of desperate letters written to his grandfather in 1939 and tantalized by fragmentary tales of a terrible betrayal, Daniel Mendelsohn sets out to find the remaining eyewitnesses to his relatives' fates. That quest eventually takes him to a dozen countries on four continents and forces him to confront the wrenching discrepancies between the histories we live and the stories we tell. And it leads him, finally, back to the small Ukrainian town where his family's story began, and where the solution to a decades-old mystery awaits him.

Deftly moving between past and present, interweaving a world-wandering odyssey with childhood memories of a now-lost generation of immigrant Jews and provocative ruminations on biblical texts and Jewish history, The Lost transforms the story of one family into a profound, morally searching meditation on our fragile hold on the past. Deeply personal, grippingly suspenseful, and beautifully written, this literary tour de force illuminates all that is lost, and found, in the passage of time.

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About the Author-
  • Daniel Mendelsohn a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books and The New Yorker, is the author of the international bestseller The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million. He teaches at Bard College.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from July 24, 2006
    As a boy in the 1960s, Mendelsohn could make elderly relatives cry just by entering the room, so much did he resemble his great-uncle Shmiel Jäger, who had been "killed by the Nazis." This short phrase was all Mendelsohn knew of his maternal grandfather Abraham's brother, who had remained with his wife and four daughters in the Ukrainian shtetl of Bolechow after Abraham left for America. Long obsessed with family history, Mendelsohn (The Elusive Embrace
    ) embarked in 2001 on a series of journeys to learn exactly what had happened to Shmiel and his family. The result is a rich, ruminative "mythic narrative... about closeness and distance, intimacy and violence, love and death." Mendelsohn uses these words to describe the biblical story of Cain and Abel, for one of the book's most striking elements is the author's recounting of the book of Genesis in parallel with his own story, highlighting eternal themes of origins and family, temptation and exile, brotherly betrayal, creation and annihilation. In Ukraine, Australia, Israel and Scandinavia, Mendelsohn locates a handful of extraordinary, aged Bolechow survivors. Especially poignant is his relationship with novelist Louis Begley's 90-year-old mother, from a town near the shtetl, an irascible, scene-stealing woman who eagerly follows Mendelsohn's remarkable effort to retrieve her lost world. B&w photos, maps.

  • Joyce Carol Oates "Daniel Mendelsohn has written a powerfully moving work of memoirist appropriation of a "lost" family past in tones reminiscent of the richly expansive prose works of Proust and the elusive texts of W.G. Sebald—a remarkable achievement."
  • Jonathan Safran Foer "Epic and personal, meditative and suspenseful, tragic and at times hilarious, The Lost is a wonderful book."
  • Charles Simic, The New York Review of Books "The Lost is the most gripping, the most amazing true story I have read in years. . . . Enthralling. . . . An immensely moving and beautifully written book."
  • Francine Prose, O, The Oprah Magazine "A stunning memoir. . . . Beautiful and powerfully moving. . . . As suspenseful as a detective thriller, and as difficult to put down. . . . . What makes The Lost so extraordinary is how loving it is."
  • Elie Wiesel, The Washington Post Book World (front cover) "A remarkable personal narrative — rigorous in its search for truth, at once tender and exacting. It is deeply moving, often distressing, sometimes funny. . . . Mendelsohn succeeds in assembling an immensely human tableau in which each witness has a face and each face a story and destiny."
  • Michael Chabon "A beautiful book, beautifully written."
  • The Forward "A grand book, an ambitious undertaking fully realized."
  • The Los Angeles Times Book Review "A magnificent and deeply wise book. . . . Mesmerizing. . . . Mendelsohn's accomplishment is enormous."
  • Joyce Carol Oates "Daniel Mendelsohn has written a powerfully moving work of a "lost" family past. . . . A remarkable achievement."
  • Rebecca Goldstein, The New York Observer "A stunning achievement. . . . Extraordinary."
  • Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Times Book Review (front cover) "Hugely ambitious yet intensely engaging. . . . Absorbing, novelistic. . . . Thought-provoking and original."
  • J. M. Coetzee "A stirring detective work, The Lost is ... deepened by reflections on the inescapable part that chance plays in history."
  • Garry Wills "Mendelsohn, a classicist, creates a stunning Odyssey here, an epic world-wandering."
  • Samuel G. Freedman, The Chicago Tribune "Stunning. . . . A singular achievement, a work of major significance and pummeling impact."
  • William Grimes, The New York Times "Extraordinary. . . . Mr. Mendelsohn, an evocative, ruminative writer, brings to life the vanished world not just of prewar Poland but also of his childhood and his extended family."
  • The Jerusalem Post "A masterpiece. . . . Daniel Mendelsohn is an astonishing writer. . . . This book for better or worse makes the Holocaust new again."
  • People (four stars) "An excellent memoir. . . . Essentially a detective story, The Lost winds up describing far more than Mendelsohn's relatives: It brings to life the struggle of an entire generation."
  • Entertainment Weekly "Moving. . . . Proves that there are limitless ways of looking at that most inexplicable of human moments."
  • Michael Chabon "A gripping detective story, a stirring epic, a tale of ghosts and dark marvels, a thrilling display of scholarship, a meditation on the unfathomable mystery of good and evil, a testimony to the enduring power of the ancient archetypes that haunt one Jewish family and the greater human family, The Lost is as complex and rich with meaning and story as the past it seeks to illuminate. A beautiful book, beautifully written."
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    Harper
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A Search for Six of Six Million
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