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Warsaw Anagrams, The Hardcover – Jul 26 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Overlook Press; Reprint edition (July 26 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590200888
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590200889
  • Product Dimensions: 3 x 14.6 x 21 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 499 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #940,062 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jill Meyer HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWER on Sept. 4 2011
Format: Paperback
Richard Zimler's "The Warsaw Anagrams" is a combination historical mystery, Holocaust study, and exploration of religious beliefs. But, it is most of all a love story set in Nazi-controlled Warsaw, 1940-42. The love that retired Polish Jewish psychiatrist Erik Cohen both generates and receives back in return is shown in his relationships with almost every character with whom he makes a connection.

Erik Cohen, who refers to himself as an atheist rather than a practicing Jew, moves into the ghetto set up by the German authorities in 1940's. A widower, his only child, a daughter, lives in safety in Turkey, and Cohen moves in with his niece, a widow with a beloved 8 year old son, Adam. At first Cohen and Adam - the old and young - find it difficult to share a room, but little-by-little, the two reach an accommodation and then acceptance. Cohen provides a stability to his niece and grand-nephew as little by little the Nazi hold on the Warsaw Ghetto proves tighter and more deadly. Both random death by violence and slow death by starvation are daily occurrences in the Ghetto, but life goes on for the survivors. Most people seem to have accepted the uncertainties of their current lives and for their futures. Things will/can only get worse for the ghetto dwellers as the Nazis begin to put their "Final Solution" into effect.

Young Adam, who runs with other ghetto children and does some smuggling of foodstuffs into the ghetto, is found dead after having gone missing. The beloved child's body was thrown in the fence surrounding the ghetto. He is naked and his right leg below the knee is missing. Erik and Adam's mother are heart-broken and Erik vows to avenge his great nephew's death and mutilation and goes into action trying to find who's responsible.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 18 reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
This One Deserves Six Stars July 26 2011
By Larry Constantine - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The first dilemma for the reviewer who hopes to do justice to Richard Zimler's new book, The Warsaw Anagrams, is what to call it. Historical murder mystery? Mystical realism with a Yiddish accent? Intelligent, engaging? Or merely brilliant? Too many adjectives, too many superlatives, and I fear the reader will be put off, missing the experience of a fast-moving book whose seduction begins with the first sentence of the Preface and pulls the reader--at times gently, at times with anger, and always with passion--through a maze of mystery, mayhem, and murder.
Try this instead. This book is too good not to know.

Best known for The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon, a murder mystery set against the massacre of Jews in 16th century Portugal, Zimler once more turns to finding meaning and transcendence amidst the quotidian realities of human beings slogging their way through chaotic, calamitous circumstance. Amidst the daily death and incessant inhumanity of the Warsaw Ghetto under the Nazi occupation of Poland, the death of a few more Jewish children would hardly seem to merit comment, much less sustained attention. But these brutal murders are different, and the difference compels Erik Cohen, a successful psychiatrist in the Before Time, to cross over to the Other Side in order to solve the puzzling anagrams.

Zimler demonstrates anew that he is at once a skilled storyteller and a student of history and the human heart, a speaker of parables and a constructor of plots who weaves his verbal tapestry with absolute authority.

Narrated by an ibbur, a Jewish ghost, The Warsaw Anagrams is history and mystery, personal odyssey and philosophical inquiry. And an amazing good read. It grabs you and shakes you and drags you through an experience that you will not forget. And that is precisely the intention of Erik Cohen, the ibbur, and of Richard Zimler. This one deserves six stars.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
I will add my 5 stars... Sept. 4 2011
By Jill Meyer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
to the other reviews so far of Richard Zimler's "The Warsaw Anagrams". A combination historical mystery, Holocaust study, and exploration of religious beliefs, it is most of all a love story set in Nazi-controlled Warsaw, 1940-42. The love that retired Polish Jewish psychiatrist Erik Cohen both generates and receives back in return is shown in his relationships with almost every character with whom he makes a connection.

Erik Cohen, who refers to himself as an atheist rather than a practicing Jew, moves into the ghetto set up by the German authorities in 1940's. A widower, his only child, a daughter, lives in safety in Turkey, and Cohen moves in with his niece, a widow with a beloved 8 year old son, Adam. At first Cohen and Adam - the old and young - find it difficult to share a room, but little-by-little, the two reach an accommodation and then acceptance. Cohen provides a stability to his niece and grand-nephew as little by little the Nazi hold on the Warsaw Ghetto proves tighter and more deadly. Both random death by violence and slow death by starvation are daily occurrences in the Ghetto, but life goes on for the survivors. Most people seem to have accepted the uncertainties of their current lives and for their futures. Things will/can only get worse for the ghetto dwellers as the Nazis begin to put their "Final Solution" into effect.

Young Adam, who runs with other ghetto children and does some smuggling of foodstuffs into the ghetto, is found dead after having gone missing. The beloved child's body was thrown in the fence surrounding the ghetto. He is naked and his right leg below the knee is missing. Erik and Adam's mother are heart-broken and Erik vows to avenge his great nephew's death and mutilation and goes into action trying to find who's responsible. He goes out behind the ghetto, into "Christian Warsaw", using both forged papers and a tale to find information from Polish Christians who may have been complicit in Adam's death, as well as the deaths of two other Jewish children found murdered and mutilated.

Dr Erik Cohen knows that he is an old man without much of a future. So little future, in fact, that part of the book is his return to life after being hung in a Nazi work camp, as an "ibbur"; a ghost or spirit. That return is to set down in writing the tale of his final days in the ghetto and in hiding after escaping the ghetto for a short-time freedom hiding on the farm of a brave Christian woman. But, as I wrote before, Erik's story is as much a love-story as an action one. He makes a list all the people whom he has loved in his long life, and it is a long list. He also connects with various Jews and Christians he meets who help him with his task of revenge. One of those old friends is Izzy, a watchmaker who is bisexual, who comes along, toting an old gun. I think the reader cannot help but feel the deep connection and love that Dr Cohen has felt and continues to feel for those in his life. He dies, but he leaves behind both a literary work and some reminders - the lives he's saved - from these awful, perilous times.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Fast-moving, powerful and intellectual murder mystery March 18 2011
By Charles S. Weinblatt - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
The Warsaw Anagrams is a fast-moving, powerful and intellectual murder mystery set within wartime Warsaw Poland during World War II.

Author Richard Zimler carries the reader deep into the daily life of Jews trapped within the horrific Nazi genocide. His striking portrayal of diverse characters is poignant and touching. Zimler proffers a salient and tender examination of the courage and fortitude exhibited by imprisoned Jews seeking only to survive one day at a time, layered upon a striking murder mystery filled with deception and intrigue. His knowledge of history is surpassed only by his clarity of literary purpose.

In 1940, Nazi Germany forced 400,000 Polish Jews into a dilapidated ghetto in Warsaw. Living in squalor, the Warsaw ghetto Jews began to die. In 1941, Dr. Erik Cohen, an elderly Jewish psychiatrist returns to Warsaw after being interned in a Nazi concentration camp. He befriends a man named Heniek Corben. Erik unfurls a murder mystery both heinous and complex. Jewish children in the ghetto had been murdered. Worse yet, someone removed a portion of the murdered children's bodies. Erik confides that the ritualistic murder of Jewish children that took place several months earlier included his beloved great-nephew, Adam.

Corben gradually realizes that he is the only person able to see Erik. Portions of the psychiatrist's story do not add up. Erik used anagrams for the names of his friends and family. He also portrayed himself as a secular Jew. Yet portions of his tale resemble ritualistic Judaism, including Kabbalah.

Through Erik's eyes, we learn the abject terror of living as a Jew in a Nazi-controlled ghetto. A sordid tale of murder and mystery gradually appears. Erik lived with his niece and her bright, sensitive and loving son, Adam. The bond between boy and great-uncle intensifies. Erik loves Adam like a son. When the boy's murdered body turns up with a missing portion, Erik transforms from a mild-mannered psychiatrist to an aggressive investigator. He interviews one person after another, following a trail of deceit and surreptitious behavior.

Erik is joined by his lifelong friend, Izzy. Relying upon each others' strengths, they follow the trail of intrigue, coming ever closer to knowing the identity of the murderer. As life in the Warsaw ghetto deteriorates, Erik and Izzy close in on the murderers. Woven into the story are well-developed characters, playing their part in the grand deception.

Mr. Zimler, an accomplished novelist, brings to life evocative characters via controlled and convincing prose. His protagonists and the other primary characters are intense and expressive. They provoke profundity and passion. Erik is commanding and persuasive. The reader never seems to lose hold upon reality, despite Corben's casual observation that the psychiatrist might be an angel.

The pace of this novel is steady and intense. The reader gradually observes signs and symbols pointing to the horrific perpetrators of this ritualistic murder of Jewish children. Mr. Zimler provides layer after layer of intrigue and excitement. This is not simply a novel about the Holocaust. It is a murder mystery that will challenge the reader to uncover a frightening truth within a world turned upside down by war and genocide.

Charles S. Weinblatt
Author, Jacob's Courage
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Brilliant April 17 2013
By ChristophFischerBooks - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
Probably one of my favourite of Zimler's work this is a gripping story, centred around the murder of a boy. As if life in the ghetto was not grim enough, the murder is gruesome and stirs up the emotions of the comunity. In the following investigation Zimler shows us another great set of characters who operate within the massive restrictions and limitations their location brings with it.
The Jewish Council, smuggling activity in and out of the ghetto, keeping humanity alive in the face of bestiality, Jewish mythology and many more ingredients in this rich blend of drama and history make this one of the more unusual and sophisticated books about the Holocaust.
Zimler has a gift for walking the line between sadness and hope in just the right measures to ensure the much needed respect for victims and yet bring enough other material to the story to educate and sensitise the reader to his chosen subject and avoid the danger of repetition.
Zimler has shown the same detailed knowledge and sensitivity in his other works, which cover other continents and centuries, always bringing the described times to colourful life.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Wrenching and poignant Aug. 23 2011
By Corinne Martin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
You won't be able to put this book down, nor to leave it behind when you're finished. Wrenching and poignant, beautiful and unrelenting, Richard Zimler's mystery wrapped in the reality of the Warsaw ghetto takes the reader right into the fierce struggle for survival and dignity of the characters. An engaging, tangible story that manages to be both terrible and tender. If a prophet is one who shines the light on the past with a new unflinching lens, Zimler is that indeed. I'll read anything he writes!
Corinne Martin, Portland ME

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