Strangers in Berlin

Modern Jewish Literature between East and West, 1919–1933
Rachel Seelig


Berlin in the 1920s was a cosmopolitan hub where for a brief, vibrant moment German-Jewish writers crossed paths with Hebrew and Yiddish migrant writers. Working against the prevailing tendency to view German and East European Jewish cultures as separate fields of study, Strangers in Berlin is the first book to present Jewish literature in the Weimar Republic as the product of the dynamic encounter between East and West. Whether they were native to Germany or sojourners from abroad, Jewish writers responded to their exclusion from rising nationalist movements by cultivating their own images of homeland in verse, and they did so in three languages: German, Hebrew, and Yiddish.

Author Rachel Seelig portrays Berlin during the Weimar Republic as a “threshold” between exile and homeland in which national and artistic commitments were reexamined, reclaimed, and rebuilt. In the pulsating yet precarious capital of Germany’s first fledgling democracy, the collision of East and West engendered a broad spectrum of poetic styles and Jewish national identities.

“Rachel Seelig’s magisterial achievement will undoubtedly command the admiration of a ramified readership, ranging from students and scholars of Jewish literature to those interested in literary and cultural theory.”
— Paul Mendes-Flohr, Professor of Jewish Thought at the Divinity School, The University of Chicago, and Professor emeritus, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Strangers in Berlin significantly expands our knowledge and understanding regarding the fruitful engagement of Jewish writers in Berlin with German and Jewish literature and culture in the crucial interwar period. Considering prominent modernist writing by Jewish authors, Rachel Seelig’s original and eloquent work also significantly broadens our view of modernism as a multilingual, transnational movement.”
— Amir Eshel, Stanford University

Rachel Seelig is a Visiting Scholar in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures at the University of Toronto.

Praise / Awards

  • "The story that Seelig does tell is one of constant movement and migration. With this, she joins a now active chorus of scholars, including Shachar Pinsker, Naomi Brenner, and Allison Schachter, who have sought to map the various networks of Jewish literary figures who crisscrossed Europe in the interwar period. What differentiates Seelig’s approach is that Strangers in Berlin examines how this peripatetic narrative is constructed with constant reference to Berlin."
    --In Geveb
  • "Strangers in Berlin encompasses so many ideas – some very nuanced, others technical – that a reader will enjoy it on their own, but will learn much more if they can discuss and analyze it with others."
    --Jewish Independent
  • “Rachel Seelig, like other researchers of her generation in America, Europe and Israel, seeks to piece together the broken structure of a formerly multilingual Jewish culture. Berlin was the last place in which this structure was still whole.”
    --Yiddish Forward
  • "Seelig’s study is thus both wide-ranging and focused, considering the social landscape of Berlin as a meeting ground for Jewish languages and literatures in transit, as well as the aesthetic and ideological characteristics of individual poets and their poetry."
    --AJS Review
  • "An admirable and valuable contribution to transdisciplinary and transnational studies of the dynamics of Jewish assimilation and the place of Jewish writers within European modernism."
    --Studies in Twentieth & Twenty-First Century Literature
  • Winner: Canadian Jewish Literary Awards (CJLA) 2017 Award, Yiddish category

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News, Reviews, Interviews

Read: Strangers in Berlin featured on the New Books Network Link | 9/25/2017

Product Details

  • 240 pages.
  • 11 B&W Illustrations.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Ebook
  • 2016
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-12228-8

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  • Weimar Republic, Berlin, modern Jewish literature, German-Jewish literature, Hebrew literature, Yiddish literature, exile literature, transnational modernism, multilingualism, threshold