The Müselmann at the Water Cooler

The Müselmann at the Water Cooler

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Eli Pfefferkorn

Series: Reference Library of Jewish Intellectual History
ISBN: 9781936235667 (hardcover) / 9781618111579 (paper)
Pages: 244 pp.
Publication Date: May 2011

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Winner of the 2012 Helen and Stan Vine Canadian Jewish Book Award in Holocaust Literature

 

A survivor of concentration camps and the Death March, Eli Pfefferkorn looks back on his Holocaust and post-Holocaust experiences to compare patterns of human behavior in extremis with those of ordinary life. What he finds is that the concentration camp Muselmann, who has lost his hunger for life and is thus shunned by his fellow inmates on the soup line, bears an eerie resemblance to an office employee who has fallen from grace and whose coworkers avoid spending time with him at the water cooler. Though the circumstances are unfathomably far apart, the human response to their situations is triggered by self-preservation rather than by calculated evil. By juxtaposing these two separate worlds, Pfefferkorn demonstrates that ultimately the human condition has not changed significantly since Cain slew Abel and the Athenians sentenced Socrates.


Eli Pfefferkorn (PhD Brown University) has served as Director of Research at the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, worked as a reviewer for the Literary Supplement of Haaretz, and edited the periodical Hebrew Literature in Translation. He has worked as a professor at Haifa and Tel-Aviv Universities and has been a guest lecturer at Brown University. He is also the recipient of a Fulbright-Hays Scholarship.


Titled The Muselmann at the Water Cooler, the book is an arresting reading experience both for the manner in which Pfefferkorn writes and the conclusions that he conveys. Not surprisingly, given his adult life-long dedication at the personal and scholarly level to writing, drama, poetry and prose, Pfefferkorn is a superb literary craftsman and stylist. His book is truly memoir as literature.
— MBD , Jewish Canadian News, December 1, 2011
Pfefferkorn has a lively style and a fascinating story to tell: his insights and his perspectives deserve a wide audience.
— Sir Martin Gilbert, official biographer of Winston Churchill and author of The Second World War (Weidenfeld and Holt, 1989)
Pfefferkorn’s experience and his memoir about it are both unusual in the field of Holocaust studies. He experienced the Shoah and survived it, played a crucial role in the establishment of the United States Holocaust Museum, and has made substantial academic contributions as well. His memoir is well done, and will make an important contribution to the field of Holocaust studies.
— John K. Roth, Edward Sexton Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Claremont McKenna College

Table of Contents

Foreword
Preface
Glossary


In the Beginning there was Bread and Freedom and Apathy
One or Two?
A Journey Back in Time
Quo Vadis?
The Amphibian Feet and the Soprano Voice
Three Levels of Knowing
Getting High on Zinger Tea
Carrying the Armband Jude
A Tom Sawyer Adventure
Caught in the Web
From the Armband to the Yellow Triangle
A World that Has to be Imagined to Make it Real
A Mother Mourning her Children
The Plasticity of Human Nature
Dodging the Muselmann’s Netherworld
Virtual Reality
Beware the Yellowish-Green Colour
Irena — My Willowy Sister
Protecting my Lebensraum
Looking into the Pistol’s Muzzle
Mottos reflecting the Shifting Situations
The Messiah is Nigh
The Predator Matrons
Jedem das Seine — To Each his Own
The Bond and the Rule
“April is the Cruellest Month”
Latter-Day Messiahs have come
Death Stalking Life
At the Birth of a Dream
My Initiation into Scooping Humus
The Schnitzel Riddle
Israel and I — An Uneasy Co-Existence
The Sabra Model
The Other
The New Day’s Rhythm
The Temptation of the Cross
Harold Fisch — My Patron Saint
A Subject of Interest
The Lure of the London Stage
Humouring the Jewish Agency
The Fateful Sukkah Meeting
My Brother — Yusuf
In the Aftermath of the Six Day War
A Critic at Large
Kosher Style
Black Cats versus White Cats
An Immodest Proposal
Hosanna
Chomsky and I
From Providence to the Holy Land
The Yom Kippur War
Touching the Past with Dieter
Pfefferkorn versus the State of Israel
The Latter-Day Hellenists
Imitatio Dei
The Bitburg Offence to Memory
The Water Cooler Metaphor
In Image and Word
The Life of Pi
My Secret Garden
Speak No Evil of Man: He, Himself,
is Testimony to It
The Lost Generation

Index