The Emperor of Lies by Steve Sem-Sandberg
A Novel

No critic rating

Waiting for minimum critic reviews

See 14 Critic Reviews

unrated

Synopsis

Winner of the August Prize, Sweden's most important literary award


A Globe and Mail Best Books of the Year 2011 Title



To be published in more than twenty-five languages



A major international literary event



"This is real literature. A great work of fiction." --Per Svensson, Dagens Nyheter



In February 1940, the Nazis established what would become the second-largest Jewish ghetto, in the Polish city of Lódz. The leader they appointed was Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski, a sixty-three-year-old Jewish businessman and orphanage director--and the elusive, authoritarian power sustaining the ghetto's very existence.



A haunting, profoundly challenging novel, The Emperor of Lies chronicles the tale of Rumkowski's monarchical rule over a quarter-million Jews for the next four and a half years. Driven by a titanic ambition, he sought to transform the ghetto into a productive industrial complex and strove to make it--and himself--indispensable to the Nazi regime. These compromises would have extraordinary consequences not only for Rumkowski but for everyone living in the ghetto. Drawing on the detailed records of life in Lódz, Steve Sem-Sandberg, in a masterful feat of literary imagination and empathy, captures the full panorama of human resilience and probes deeply into the nature of evil. Through the dramatic narrative, he asks the most difficult questions: Was Rumkowski a ruthless opportunist, an accessory to the Nazi regime motivated by a lust for power? Or was he a pragmatist who managed to save Jewish lives through his collaboration policies? How did the inhabitants of the ghetto survive in such extreme circumstances?



A critically acclaimed breakout bestseller in Sweden, The Emperor of Lies introduces a writer of great significance to American readers. The archives detail daily life in the Lodz ghetto, under the reign of Rumkowki, but it takes a writer with Sem-Sandberg's singular talent to help us understand the truth of this chilling history.



 

About Steve Sem-Sandberg

See more books from this Author
Steve Sem-Sandberg was born in 1958. He divides his time between Vienna and Stockholm.
 
Published August 30, 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 672 pages
Genres: History, Education & Reference, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Emperor of Lies

Kirkus Reviews

See more reviews from this publication

Sadistic and abusive in every possible way, Rumkowski has an odd dream: He believes that he can “demonstrate to the authorities what capable workers the Jews are,” thereby convincing the Nazis to turn all of Lodz into what would eventually become “a Jewish free state under Nazi supremacy, where f...

Sep 01 2011 | Read Full Review of The Emperor of Lies: A Novel

The New York Times

See more reviews from this publication

There are characters who tug at our imaginations, only to disappear from view almost as quickly as they appear: Zawadzki, the mythic “smuggler king of the ghetto” who escapes jail over the rooftops without leaving a trace, and one of Rumkowski’s secretaries, the beautiful Rywka Tenenbaum, who fal...

Sep 02 2011 | Read Full Review of The Emperor of Lies: A Novel

The Guardian

See more reviews from this publication

The Emperor of Lies is a novel about horrific historical fact, the Holocaust as experienced by the Jews of the Polish ghetto of Lodz.

Jul 08 2011 | Read Full Review of The Emperor of Lies: A Novel

Publishers Weekly

See more reviews from this publication

Though Sem-Sandberg often writes with extraordinary detail (a section detailing the many ghetto suicides is terribly moving), as a novel, this book has many failings.

Jul 04 2011 | Read Full Review of The Emperor of Lies: A Novel

BC Books

See more reviews from this publication

The cast of characters in The Emperor of Lies is dazzling, some like Adam Rzepin we read a lot about, others like the ghetto’s smuggler king appear and disappear quickly from the pages.

Nov 28 2011 | Read Full Review of The Emperor of Lies: A Novel

BC Books

See more reviews from this publication

The Emperor of Lies by Steve Sem-Sandberg is an award winning historical fiction book, an amazing, somber, hard look at a Jewish ghetto in Poland during World War II.

Nov 28 2011 | Read Full Review of The Emperor of Lies: A Novel

The Telegraph

At its terrible heart is a warning to those delivering facile judgments of condemnation: only those who survived Łódz have the right to forgive or condemn, and even they are not properly fit to do so, for those who fathomed the degradation did not come back to tell the tale.

Jul 13 2011 | Read Full Review of The Emperor of Lies: A Novel

Washington Independent Review of Books

In this work of fiction the author uses historical documents ― and a dose of magical realism ― to reimagine Poland’s Lodz ghetto under Nazi rule.

Sep 16 2011 | Read Full Review of The Emperor of Lies: A Novel

Open Letters Monthly

In his novel The Emperor of Lies, first published to critical acclaim in Sweden in 2009, Steve Sem-Sandberg tells the story of the historical figure Chaim Rumkowski, the Eldest of the Jews in the Łódź ghetto.

Jan 01 2012 | Read Full Review of The Emperor of Lies: A Novel

Scotsman.com

FIVE years ago Jonathan Littell's huge, sometimes brilliant, frequently repulsive, highly ambitious and deeply flawed novel about Nazi Germany and the "Final Solution to the Jewish Problem", The Kindly Ones, won the Prix Goncourt in France and received a less ecstatic welcome here and in Germany.

Jul 19 2011 | Read Full Review of The Emperor of Lies: A Novel

The American Book Center Blog

Simon & Schuster.Tags: eefje koppers, Fiction, WWII, You Review, You Review Elite This entry was posted on Thursday, July 14th, 2011 at 7:36 pm and is filed under Book Reviews, Fiction, You Review.

Jul 14 2011 | Read Full Review of The Emperor of Lies: A Novel

New Zealand Listener

Get started today More by David Eggleton Stalking Nabokov by Brian Boyd - review Subscriber content Sound Full: Sound in Contemporary Australian and New Zealand Art Subscriber content The Incomplete Poems by David Ho...

Nov 05 2011 | Read Full Review of The Emperor of Lies: A Novel

Sunshine Coast Daily

Businessman Chaim Rumkowski, a Jewish collaborator, ran the Lodz ghetto with an iron fist, controlling every facet of life with an army of assorted thugs, villains and Nazi-sympathiser gangs, adding yet more misery to the unspeakable conditions already existing.

Aug 08 2011 | Read Full Review of The Emperor of Lies: A Novel

The Jewish Chronicle

Sem-Sandberg's chronicle of the Lodz ghetto and its dubiously autocratic "Chairman" - businessman and orphanage director Chaim Rumkowski - feels like 650 pages of literary thumbscrews.

Aug 19 2011 | Read Full Review of The Emperor of Lies: A Novel

Reader Rating for The Emperor of Lies
74%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 65 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


Rate this book!

Add Review
×