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The Emperor of Lies

3.64  ·  Rating Details ·  727 Ratings  ·  111 Reviews
In February 1940, the Nazis established what would become the second-largest Jewish ghetto, in the Polish city of Lódz.The leader they appointed was Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski, a sixty-three-year-old Jewish businessman and orphanage director—and the elusive, authoritarian power sustaining the ghetto’s very existence.

A haunting, profoundly challenging novel, The Emperor of L
Kindle Edition, 672 pages
Published August 30th 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 2009)
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Richard Derus
May 04, 2013 Richard Derus rated it liked it
Rating: I really do not know. Say three stars just to put a value here.

The Book Report: "There's no business like Shoah business." It's cynical, it's infuriating, and it's inevitable that this huge, horrific, and richly dramatic story should be exploited in a million different ways. This novel manages, seventy years after the fact, to find a new and interesting, if completely depressing, angle on the oft-told tale: The life and times of Chaim Rumkowski, the Eldest Jew as the Germans called him,
Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont
Jun 25, 2012 Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont rated it did not like it
The Emperor is Naked

Some books puzzle me, the lavish praise they attract puzzles, verbal excesses that seem to set the world on one side and me on the other. I feel like the little girl who wants to cry out please, look; the emperor is naked!

It was a mood that came across me when I read The Kindly Ones, Jonathan Littell’s tome-like novel set in the Second World War. One hysterical commendation placed on the dust jacket by the publisher (naturally) compared it to War and Peace. It’s complete ru
I really need to think about this. It's a good but really depressing book. The writing is brillant.

I might come back and add more latter, but right now that's all I've got.

Mark Staniforth
Apr 09, 2012 Mark Staniforth rated it it was ok
Does the world really need another Holocaust novel? Not according to historian Simon Schama, who said, in a scathing review in the Financial Times, that 'The Emperor Of Lies' is 'all fugged up with the kind of "fine writing" that succeeds only in drawing attention to the emotional and moral void at its centre.'
The literary world is, of course (as Schama readily accepts) hardly placed to issue any kind of moratorium on Holocaust literature, and for all those who could not begin to contemplate wad
Aaron Finestone
Sep 10, 2016 Aaron Finestone rated it it was amazing
The only way to demonstrate the soul of Chaim Rumkowski is through a novel, explains Swedish author Steve Sem-Sandberg. In Emperor of Lies (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) Sem-Sandberg gives a gripping and grim account of the Lodz Ghetto and its boss Chaim Rumkowski.

Months after conquering Poland and parts of the Soviet Union, the Nazis ordered the Jews into ghettos, usually fenced in and sealed, and located in the poorest parts of a city. The Nazis held the Jews in ghettos until they could be depo
Zohar -
Dec 05, 2011 Zohar - rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
The Emperor of Lies by Steve Sem-Sandberg is an award winning historical fiction book. The book was translated from Swedish and tells about real life, as well as fictional characters.

The ghetto at Łódź, Poland has existed for two years. Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski, the Nazi nominated “elder of Jews” is asked to supply 20,000 Jews for deportation. The lies and shadows of this complex man cover many pages of this book.

Adam Rzepin lives with his father and mentally ill sister. Adam is trying to survi
Sep 28, 2012 Tuck rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
a masterpiece of literature destined to go through time as a benchmark and meditation of nazis in poland, ghettos of 1940 on, collaborators and resisters, and holocaust writings. swedish author sem-sandberg based much of this novel on the "ghetto encyclopedia" of lodz which has recently, and finally been printed, cataloged and made available and that he mined.
so, was Mordechai chaim rumkowski a megalomaniacal monster bent on sexually molesting his many orphans and ripping off as many jews of th
Nov 02, 2011 Felice rated it it was amazing
Low and behold it’s another non-detective novel from Sweden. That’s my second in a couple weeks. Could this be a publishing trend? Or is it that this novel The Emperor of Lies and The Long Ships are the only two Swedish novels that do not involve Perps.

Back in the land of Heidi and gruesome murder mysteries, The Emperor of Lies was big bestseller. It is a prize winning novel about the Lodzghetto by Steve Sem-Sandberg. Thanks to Sarah Death it has been translated into English.

The novel is based o
Mar 26, 2011 Ditte rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ik heb heel lang na moeten denken over wat ik nou écht van dit boek vond. Door de enorme lof die de schrijver en het boek op de kaft toegezwaaid krijgen, heb ik namelijk het gevoel dat ik iets gemist heb. De indruk die bij mij overheerst is dat dit boek een verhaal vertelt dat het waard is om gehoord te worden, een goede aanvulling op de lange rijen Holocaust-vertellingen die alleen al opgemerkt dienen te worden ter nagedachtenis van en uit eerbied voor de slachtoffers. De geschiedenis van één v ...more
Apr 01, 2012 Lisa rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned, holocaust
I know I offered to review this for Stu’s Shadow Independent Foreign Fiction Prize team, but having plodded through the first 51 pages of 664, it’s quite clear to me that I don’t like it at all, and so I’m not going to read the rest of it.

Simon Schama at The Financial Times says it so much better than I ever could: whatever is the point? If you are disposed to try to understand the unfathomable Holocaust, this tawdry novel is not going to help you, and if it is the only book about the Holocaust
Jul 27, 2012 Jeffrey rated it it was amazing
Possibly a masterpiece...we've had the Holocaust done in so many ways and think we know it all...but this uses fact in a new way, looking at how manipulative people are in survival mode.

The detail is extraordinnary as is the standard of unusually high standard these days...and althogh it is unrelentingly grim, that gets you to read on.

You'll be staggered at how people behave when you know it is factually based.

The one issue is: you don't engage with anyone as nobody is really sympath
Eiríkur Norðdahl
Jan 20, 2014 Eiríkur Norðdahl rated it did not like it
Mér finnst lífið of stutt til að klára bækur sem ég næ ekki sambandi við. En stundum verða þær bækur furðulega margar – í fyrra var hlutfallið skuggalega hátt. Svo ég ákvað að drösla mér í gegnum Öreigana í Łodz jafnvel þótt hún væri búin að missa á mér takið, ég búinn að missa á henni takið, þótt hún væri tæpar 600 blaðsíður.

Ég veit ekki hvað það er við helfararbókmenntir sem gerir þær svona óþolandi. Mér þótti það áður en ég skrifaði Illsku, vel að merkja, og var ein aðalástæðan fyrir því að é
Sep 21, 2016 Karen rated it really liked it
I'm giving this 4 stars even though it was difficult to read. The subject was difficult - the story of the ghetto established by the Nazis in Lodz, Poland in 1940; more specifically, some of the inhabitants of that ghetto, mainly the Eldest Jew (leader of the Jewish community), Mordecai Chaim Rumkowski. He rules over a quarter million Jews for 4 1/2 years, striving to make himself and the ghetto indispensable to the Nazis, basically by doing what they told him to do. Was he a ruthless accessory ...more
Aug 20, 2016 Amu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tositapahtumiin perustuva romaani puolalaisesta getosta toisen maailmansodan aikaan. Pääosassa on geton juutalainen puhemies, joka oli ehkä sankari, ehkä vain vallanhimoinen pelkuri. Geton elämää ja vaiheita kuvaillaan yksityiskohtaisesti.

Kirja on raaka, synkkä ja valoton, mutta myös hyvin vaikuttava ja ajatuksia herättävä. Tiivistäminen ja tyylillinen selkeyttäminen olisivat olleet joissain kohdin paikallaan. Loppua kohden teos vain paranee ja ryhdistyy.

Yleensä olen nopea lukija, mutta tämän k
Aug 24, 2012 Dhana rated it it was amazing
Translated from the Swedish, this is a harrowing depiction of Chaim Rumkowski and his control of the Lodz ghetto and attempt to turn it into a Jewish 'state'....think of words such as 'harrowing', 'cruel', 'evil' and times them by 10.....the characters are almost Dickensian in their portrayal and the story leaves you bereft....Rumkowski the monstrous dictator, and yet, if the war has ended a few months / a year would he have been perceived then.....?
Thom Dunn
{Advertised NYRB 9-29-2011: "In February 1940, the Nazis established a Jewish ghetto in the Polish city of Lodz. The leader they appointed was Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski, a sixty-three-year-old Jewish businessman and orphanage director. The Emperor of Lies--a sensation throughout Europe--is the tale of Rumkowski's monarchical rule over a quarter-million Jews for four and a half years."

Farrar Straus Giroux
Dec 23, 2011 Becky rated it really liked it
This is a well-written, interesting book, but the lenght, and impending sense of doom, made it hard to finish.

More than usual with Holocaust books, the story is overshadowed by what most people know to be the outcome, so everything feels entirely futile, and misguided.

Definitely worth pushing through, but this is not a book you can just finish in a day.
Heidi Murphy
Jun 13, 2011 Heidi Murphy rated it it was amazing
One of the most vivid and disturbing Holocaust novels I've ever read, and yet I really didn't want this to end. A dark but utterly compelling tale of life in a Jewish ghetto.
Feb 15, 2012 Tim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh. My. God.

Also, I think I deserve like triple "Kevin Owens Points" for finishing this book.
Mar 02, 2014 Pavlína rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Žádná omáčka, přepis kroniky ghetta zabalený do nepřikrášleného pokusu o příběh.
Feb 02, 2012 Dan rated it really liked it
Bearing profound witness
Known as the "Chairman," Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski led the Jewish Council, the governing body of the Lodz Ghetto in German occupied Poland. He was a person of immense ambition with a vision that industrialization would make the ghetto community indispensible to the Germans.

The Chairman's dream was that the Lodz Ghetto would become a place where "here the lamp of industry would be kept burning, here there was production as had never been seen before. And everyone had some
Jul 16, 2011 Trishnyc rated it liked it
In 1939 as the Nazis furthered their reign of terror on Poland and quarantined a large number of Jews into the Lodz ghetto, Chaim Rumkowski presented himself as a representative of his people. The understanding was that he would help control his people by making them useful to the government and turning them into a massive workforce. The Nazis, glad to further exploit this population agree to Rumkowski's offer and allow him almost unfettered power over the ghetto. Through this agreement, a few t ...more
Nov 25, 2012 Lorri rated it it was amazing
The Emperor of Lies: A Novel, by Steve Sem-Sandberg is quite the ambitious undertaking, and filled with exceptional, emotional and horrific captures of history. The book has left me for weeks unable to totally formulate a review due to the unimaginable content.

The novel revolves around Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski and his dynamics within the Lodz Ghetto in Poland during World War II. His actions have been debated, applauded and also detested throughout the decades. His motivations have been questio
Oct 01, 2016 Steve rated it did not like it
I gave up on this book after is dove off into child sexual abuse. Disappointing.
Mark Berger
May 15, 2013 Mark Berger rated it really liked it
Lodz im September 1942. Im jüdischen Getto herrscht ein hartes Regiment. Der Verwalter trimmt die Zwangsarbeiter auf höchste Produktivität, kürzt Lebensmittelrationen, von denen sowieso kaum einer leben kann, entscheidet über Leben und Tod. Sein Leben ist erheblich angenehmer, mit eigenem Wagen, Sommerresidenz und gut gefüllter Speisekammer. Dabei ist er selbst ein Jude: Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski, genannt der „Präses“, die Hauptfigur des halb-dokumentarischen Romans „Die Elenden von Lodz“ des sc ...more
Feb 05, 2013 Jo rated it it was ok
It's a massive tome, 650pp, about the Lodz ghetto, and its leader, Chaim Rumkowski.

Rumkowski is usually thought of as a bad man, not because he collaborated with the Germans per se (what choice exactly did he have about that?) but because of the way he did so, in contrast to eg Adam Czerniakow, leader of the Warsaw ghetto. He believed (or pretended that he believed?) that if he could show the Germans how productive his ghetto was, they would allow it to remain in business, and refrain from kill
Aug 16, 2012 Mighty_k24 rated it it was amazing
In't kort: een deels gefictionaliseerd relaas van het joodse getto in de Poolse stad Lotz, van bij de bezetting door de Duitsers in 1939 tot de bevrijding door de Russen in 1945.We volgen, naast enkele andere getto-bewoners, vooral Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski, de Judenälteste of zo'n beetje de burgemeester van het getto, en zijn pogingen om het leven in het getto draaglijk(er) te maken.
Mijn oordeel: in de Standaard der Letteren werd dit boek gerecenseerd onder de titel 'Welgemikte moker !', en kre
Feb 05, 2013 Lynn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An outstanding literary work of art that I hope won't be forgotten, The Emperor of Lies by Steve Sem-Sandberg is a novel that takes place in the Lodz ghetto during WWII. The Emperor in the story is Modechai Chaim Rumkowski, a Polish Jew and historical figure who offered himself up to the Nazis in 1940 to help run the new ghetto. His idea to save the lives of Jews were to make them an impressive work force which the Nazis would value. Rumkowski kept order in the ghetto and set up social services ...more
Joseph Sverker
Det är bara att överlåta sig till den här boken helt och hållet. Sem-Sandberg drar in mig i misären och det förryckta hoppet som råder i Lodz. Jag lever på något sätt hela tiden i en känsla av att det blir värre, eftersom man känner till förintelselägrena, samtidigt känner jag den totala nöden och känslan av att det blir inte värre än såhär. Det är upprivandet av familjeband som kanske gör ondast här. I De fattiga i Lodz är det på något sätt extra ångestladdat att läsa om det. Det kan vara att j ...more
Sep 23, 2013 Magnus rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For me this book combined with at the same time travel around in Poland was a good way to better understand our history.

I have the last week been visiting Lods, Warszawa and fragments of ghetto Wall and the Uprising Museum, Auswitch and also doing a lot of geocaching where e.g. visiting places like the Russian graves in Lodz, the "Monument to the Victims of the Katyń Massacre." 30000 Polish soldier where kilked - in Wroclaw, visiting station Radegast i Lodz where the Jews where sent to Auswitch
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Steve Sem-Sandberg is a Swedish journalist, novelist, non-fiction writer and translator. He is the author of The Emperor of Lies . Sem-Sandberg divides his time between Vienna and Stockholm.
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