The Elixir of Immortality

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9781590515891: The Elixir of Immortality

A mesmerizing debut novel that spans a thousand years of European and Jewish history seen through the beguiling members of the Spinoza family
 
Since the eleventh century, the Spinoza family has passed down, from father to son, a secret manuscript containing the recipe for immortality. Now, after thirty-six generations, the last descendant of this long and illustrious chain, Ari Spinoza, doesn’t have a son to whom to entrust the manuscript. From his deathbed, he begins his narrative, hoping to save his lineage from oblivion.
 
Ari’s two main sources of his family’s history are a trunk of yellowing documents inherited from his grandfather, and his great-uncle Fernando’s tales that captivated him when he was a child. He chronicles the Spinozas’ involvement in some of Europe’s most formative cultural events with intertwining narratives that move through ages of tyranny, creativity, and social upheaval: into medieval Portugal, Grand inquisitor Torquemada’s
Spain, Rembrandt’s Amsterdam, the French Revolution, Freud’s Vienna, and the horrors of both world wars.
 
The Elixir of Immortality blends truth and fiction as it rewrites European history through comic, imaginative, scandalous, and tragic tales that prove “the only thing that can possibly give human beings immortality on this earth: our ability to remember.”

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About the Author:

Gabi Gleichmann was born in Budapest in 1954 and raised in Sweden. After studies in literature and philosophy, he worked as a journalist and served as president of the Swedish PEN organization. Gleichmann now lives in Oslo and works as a writer, publisher, and literary critic. His first novel, The Elixir of Immortality, was sold to eleven countries prior to its first publication.
 
Michael Meigs is an arts journalist and theatre reviewer in Austin, Texas, who served more than thirty years as an economist and diplomat with the U.S. Department of State. In 2011 the American Scandinavian Foundation awarded him the annual ASF Translation Prize for his English version of The Dean by Lars Gustafsson.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

   I was born in a world where the past had more meaning than the future. The shining promise offered to others by the new day meant nothing to us. Our golden age lay behind us and was wrapped in deep silence. Oddly enough, no one in the family talked about the fates of our many family members, either because no one could bear to relive the past or simply because everyone wanted to shield us children from the suffering of the Spinozas throughout the ages. We’d been struck by so many misfortunes. 
   We’d been dogged by disaster as far back as anyone could remember. Almost everything that happened in the world turned out to be disastrous for us. The Middle Ages. The Enlightenment. The French Revolution. Emancipation. World wars. Catholicism. Nazism. Communism. Liberalism. 
   Life in our family was based on principles that had never offered us security in the past and might always be subject to attack in the future. We were secular Jews who’d lost contact with traditional concepts of our faith and customs, Jews who never put down roots wherever we were living. That’s why we were forever excluded from the benefits of joining any other community.
   If it hadn’t been for my great-uncle, a man who actually had no blood ties to us, Sasha and I would have grown up in that tyranny of silence. But Fernando knew how to conjure up our hidden legends and all the events and history that lay concealed deep within our genes, and he brought our heritage to life for us with his epic talent for storytelling. I’m convinced he understood what our family’s willful suppression of our story was doing to us children, and he wanted to infuse us with vital force and courage by giving my twin brother and me something to be proud of: strong roots. That was why he taught us that the events themselves were to blame. None of it was our fault.

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Gabi Gleichmann, (Translator) Michael Miegs
Editorial: Other Press (2013)
ISBN 10: 1590515897 ISBN 13: 9781590515891
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