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Publisher's Summary

A unique chronicle of the years 1847-1947, the century when the Jewish people changed the world - and it changed them.

In a hundred-year period, a handful of men and women changed the way we see the world. Many of them are well known - Marx, Freud, Proust, Einstein, Kafka. Others have vanished from collective memory despite their enduring importance in our daily lives. Without Karl Landsteiner, for instance, there would be no blood transfusions or major surgery. Without Paul Ehrlich, no chemotherapy. Without Siegfried Marcus, no motor car. Without Rosalind Franklin, genetic science would look very different. Without Fritz Haber, there would not be enough food to sustain life on earth. 

What do these visionaries have in common? They all had Jewish origins. They all had a gift for thinking in wholly original, even earth-shattering ways. In 1847 the Jewish people made up less than 0.25 percent of the world’s population, and yet they saw what others could not. How? Why? 

Norman Lebrecht has devoted half of his life to pondering and researching the mindset of the Jewish intellectuals, writers, scientists, and thinkers who turned the tides of history and shaped the world today as we know it. In Genius & Anxiety, Lebrecht begins with the Communist Manifesto in 1847 and ends in 1947, when Israel was founded. This robust, magnificent volume, beautifully designed, is an urgent and necessary celebration of Jewish genius and contribution.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2020 Norman Lebrecht (P)2020 Simon & Schuster Audio

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Poor Pronunciation of Foreign Words

Jonathan Davis was evidently too lazy to seek help in pronunciation of foreign language words. His German and Hebrew was really excruciating, like fingernails on a chalk board.

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Post-anxiety

Although I am Jewish this book doesn't ring my chimes. Maybe it's because I was born following the birth of the state of Israel and so am a post-anxiety Jew. Putting it another way, when I feel anxious I assume it's because something inside me is off-kilter. It's not because I fear a pogrom. The author, very politically-correctly, asserts that Jews are not genetically more intelligent than other people. Well, who knows? Maybe we are. As far as I know there are no scientific studies either confirming or refuting this hypothesis. The author also worries about a recent rise of antisemitism in the US and UK. This does not jibe with my personal experience, I've lived in both countries and felt and feel very comfortable in both. In the US two Jews, Bernie Sanders and Mike Bloomberg, recently ran for President and nobody seemed bothered by, or even much to notice, their religion. Then there's the question of whether a converted Jew is a Jew. I tend to say not. After all, Judaism is a religion. If a person converts, then they're no longer a Jew. On this basis, some of the protagonists of this book do not qualify as Jews. I find it irksome that a book about Jewish geniuses includes converted Jews. These converts should be moved to a book about gentile geniuses. If a converted Jew is still a Jew then that argues for a genetic basis for Judaism, which boomerangs back against the author's contention that there's nothing genetic about Jewish genius. I also deny that Marx, one of figures in this book, was a genius. I wasted many hours in my youth reading Marx's writings, and those of other Marxists. If you compare Marx's output to a true work of genius, such as the Origin of Species, it is like comparing a pile of dung to a luminous gem. Bringing up Darwin we see that there were many non-Jewish geniuses in the time frame focused on by the author. In literature there were Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, George Elliot, Herman Melville, and many others. There was Alan Turing, the founder of modern computing, and the great logician Kurt Godel. In music there were the invention and elaboration of the blues and jazz by black Americans most of whom, I assume, were not Jewish. I could go on at great length. My point is that maybe in this time period there was a flourishing of creativity, Jewish and gentile. If that is the case it would be interesting to try to understand why. Possibly it had nothing to do with religion. To summarize, I found the book neither satisfying nor convincing.

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Lots of interesting history

Not sure I followed any overall point, but filled with interesting historical detail about the many figures mentioned