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How to Be a Refugee

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A lyrical, fascinating, important book. More than just a family story, it is an essay on belongin... Read More

Product Description

A lyrical, fascinating, important book. More than just a family story, it is an essay on belonging, denying, pretending, self-deception and, at least for the main characters, survival.Simon May's remarkable How to Be a Refugee is a memoir of family secrets with a ruminative twist, one that's more interested in what we keep from ourselves than the ones we conceal from others . . . May's large cast of characters shows with dizzying variety the human ability to live in a state of constant flight from horror, long after the shooting stops. His broad and intriguing book suggests that these survivors were exiled not just from time and place, but also from themselves.Gripping family memoir . . . a delight.Simon May was raised in Britain as a Catholic, but was forbidden to identify as British. Neither was he allowed to identify as Jewish or German, despite his family‰۪s origins. After one of his aunts reveals the truth about his father‰۪s death, May embarks on a quest to uncover his family‰۪s true history: a story of steadfast denial of their Jewish heritage through extraordinary means in order to escape the fate of Jewish people living in Hitler‰۪s Germany.A poignant tale of three sisters who buried their Jewish roots to survive in a hostile world.In this engrossing and poignant memoir, philosophy professor and author Simon May examines the roots of his confused sense of identity and provides a new perspective on some of the 20th century‰۪s darkest days . . . A fascinating, moving and troubling read.A passionate and eloquent account of a lost world of German Jews, cosmopolitan, sophisticated and cultured - and, so often, assimilated.The paradoxes of identity so brilliantly explored in this memoir are intriguing and absurd, as well as tragic.In this engrossing and poignant memoir, philosophy professor and author Simon May examines the roots of his confused sense of identity and provides a new perspective on some of the 20th-century‰۪s darkest days . . . a fascinating, moving and troubling read.A meditation on his own family inheritance and that strange historical entity that was the German Jew ‰ÛÒ so in love with the fatherland‰۪s cultural forms and ideals that its killing politics grew nigh invisible ‰ÛÒ Simon May‰۪s memoir is both deeply felt and profoundly thought. It is also beautifully conceived ‰ÛÒ propelling us from the innocence of childhood when questions are hard to put through to the realities of age. This is a superb book.A deeply moving and perceptive memoir of a family caught in the jaws of a terrible history, May shows how individual lives and relationships reflect the larger tragedies, the losses, hopes and loves, of oppressive and destructive times. It is a powerful story beautifully told, and at the same time a significant document in the record of the twentieth century.Gripping . . . May is at his best when he writes about his own experience of loss and displacement . . . a beautifully told story of a second-generation refugee coming to terms with his family's German past.A powerfully moving family memoir of loss, exile and self-concealment in Nazi Germany.

'A lyrical, fascinating, important book. More than just a family story, it is an essay on belonging, denying, pretending, self-deception and, at least for the main characters, survival.' Literary Review

'Simon May's remarkable How to Be a Refugee is a memoir of family secrets with a ruminative twist, one that's more interested in what we keep from ourselves than the ones we conceal from others.' Irish Times

The most familiar fate of Jews living in Hitler‰۪s Germany is either emigration or deportation to concentration camps. But there was another, much rarer, side to Jewish life at that time: denial of your origin to the point where you manage to erase almost all consciousness of it. You refuse to believe that you are Jewish.

How to Be a Refugee is Simon May‰۪s gripping account of how three sisters ‰ÛÒ his mother and his two aunts ‰ÛÒ grappled with what they felt to be a lethal heritage. Their very different trajectories included conversion to Catholicism, marriage into the German aristocracy, securing ‰Û÷Aryan‰۪ status with high-ranking help from inside Hitler‰۪s regime, and engagement to a card-carrying Nazi.

Even after his mother fled to London from Nazi Germany and Hitler had been defeated, her instinct for self-concealment didn‰۪t abate. Following the early death of his father, also a German Jewish refugee, May was raised a Catholic and forbidden to identify as Jewish or German or British.

In the face of these banned inheritances, May embarks on a quest to uncover the lives of the three sisters as well as the secrets of a grandfather he never knew. His haunting story forcefully illuminates questions of belonging and home ‰ÛÒ questions that continue to press in on us today.

Simon May was born in London, the son of a violinist and a brush manufacturer. Visiting professor of philosophy at King‰۪s College London, his books include Love: A New Understanding of an Ancient Emotion; Love: A History; Nietzsche‰۪s Ethics and his War on ‰Û÷Morality‰۪; The Power of Cute; and Thinking Aloud, a collection of his own aphorisms. His work has been translated into ten languages and regularly features in major newspapers worldwide. For many years he has intended to move ‰Û÷back‰۪ to Berlin, but has yet to do so.

Product Details

Title: How to Be a Refugee
Author: Simon May
SKU: BK0443121
EAN: 9781529042863
Binding: Paperback

About Author

Simon May was born in London, the son of a violinist and a brush manufacturer. Visiting professor of philosophy at King’s College London, his books include Love: A New Understanding of an Ancient Emotion; Love: A History; Nietzsche’s Ethics and his War on ‘Morality’; The Power of Cute; How to Be a Refugee and Thinking Aloud, a collection of his own aphorisms. His work has been translated into ten languages and regularly features in major newspapers worldwide. For many years he has intended to move ‘back’ to Berlin, but has yet to do so.

A collection of his own aphorisms entitled Thinking Aloud (Alma Books, 2009) was a Financial Times Book of the Year. A selection of his aphorisms is included in Geary’s Guide to the World’s Great Aphorists, published by Bloomsbury.
Simon’s books have been featured in many prominent publications, such as the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, The Guardian, Folha de Sao Paulo, Corriere della Sera, the Globe and Mail, and Tatler. He has appeared on BBC Radio 4 programs such as Woman’s Hour, The Moral Maze, and Thinking Aloud, as well as on BBC television, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and other national networks.

His work has been translated into ten languages and has been reviewed in major newspapers all over the world. Of Love: A History the Financial Times wrote:
'May could just have achieved the seemingly impossible and produced a truly original philosophy of love … May is able to draw out what is true in each age’s perception of love, discard what is misleading, and synthesize the result into the most persuasive account of love’s nature I have ever read.'

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