Handsel Books, Paperback, 9781590513088, 382pp.
Publication Date: November 4, 2008
Elisabeth and Theodore Weissberg, famous musicians, Hilde, a young film extra, and Vladek, an Eastern European adventurer wanted by the police on political charges, flee Nazi Germany for Shanghai at the onset of World War II. A magnet for every human ambition and vice, Shanghai is a city of extremes–of dazzling wealth and wretched poverty, suffering and pleasure, and, for the four refugees, exile and safety. There, they enter the world of Jewish refugees, many of them artists and intellectuals, who must either starve or eke out an impoverished and sometimes degraded living, but they are determined to live intelligently, upholding the high culture, humor, and even, insofar as they can, the elegance of their former lives. Master storyteller Angel Wagenstein crafts an intense narrative of life and death, passionate love, and profound courage against the backdrop of the war and the millions of lives caught up in it.
Elizabeth Frank won the 1986 Pulitzer Prize for her biography "Louise Bogan: A Portrait." She is also the author of "Jackson Pollack" and "Esteban Vicente." She has written many articles and book reviews on art and literature for "The New York Times Book Review," "The New York Times Magazine," and "Art in America," among others. She is the Joseph E. Harry Professor of Modern Languages and Literature at Bard College.
Wagenstein intelligently interweaves the voices of several characters, whose common thread is their desire to live in safety. Winner of the 2004 Jean Monnet Award, this novel sheds light on a forgotten part of history that is only now becoming known. Recommended.
"Moving effortlessly from Paris to Dresden to Shanghai, Wagenstein (Isaac’s Torah) masterfully chronicles the lives of European émigrés and refugees in WWII Shanghai...Wagenstein is impressive in his ability to move from the small details of individual displaced lives to a larger panorama of international intrigue...[he] brings to life a largely unknown chapter of Nazi persecution"
San Francisco Chronicle
The Bulgarian novelist sets refugees, spies and a few true believers into play for a sprawling and utterly engaging book...the strong connections between the characters illustrate not only the persistence of human nature but also the illogic of war.
Grand Rapids Press
For readers and dreamers, doers and seekers, a book can make the holiday and the coming year more meaningful. Here are some good picks to fill out your shopping list...
Farewell, Shanghai,by Angel Wagenstein
World War II Shanghai is a terrible haven for many German Jews fleeing the Nazis. Wagenstein, a Bulgarian whose book has been translated into English, has crafted a tense tale of love and loss, war and peace that focuses on Shanghai, a place of stunning poverty and dazzling wealth.
Farewell, Shanghai captures this political and cultural maelstrom during World War II. Vividly written, paced like a thriller and rich with cinematic detail, the reader can practically smell the fetid, swampy air of the city. Wagenstein’s smoothly translated and fluid narrative has a sardonic edge...The riveting story of the Jews in Shanghai in the 1930s and ’40s might seem hardly credible, but as Wagenstein archly says, “Is there anything more implausible than History?”
The Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA)
Wagenstein is one of Bulgaria’s greatest modern writers. In Farewell, Shanghai, he has constructed a fascinating and profoundly moving roman à clef.
National Jewish Post & Opinion
This is a narrative filled with barbarity and inhumanity leavened with fortitude and bravery. The fictional format chosen by the author provides an excellent vehicle for him to describe a relatively unfamiliar aspect of what happened to Jews during World War II. What he so ably sets forth has the true air of credibility, adding significantly to our knowledge about the Holocaust.