On a fascinating book

Seeing a review of Shmuel Feiner’s biography of Moses Mendelssohn uploaded on academia.edu reminded me of my first encounter with the book, several years ago.

Our university library, in the good old days it could afford to buy print books, had a shelf or two of the latest week’s acquisitions, an area of the library I used to frequent in my lunch hour, just to see what goodies had appeared. Partly out of curiosity. Partly out of a professional desire to keep up to date with my English, as one of my copyediting clients once complained that my English was too old-fashioned.

Feiner’s biography was so engaging that I almost couldn’t put it down. It really was a joy to read. A book I recommended to many others. And even gave away as a gift. It was partly the man himself who interested me, Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786), an enlightenment philosopher who worked as a bookkeeper in a silk factory; and an ancestor of one of my favourite historians, Felix Gilbert, and partly the way Feiner writes about him.

Moses Mendelssohn proved by thought and deed that one could be a good citizen, while being a member of a minority religion, a topic that resonates to today.

My fascination with the book was so great, that I even found an acquaintance who was keen on translating the book into Danish, and I contacted a local publisher. His basic question, if I knew of 400-500 people who would buy the book, was one I sadly couldn’t answer in the affirmative.  A shame really. A missed opportunity. As I truly believe that the book would contribute to and enrich the political debate of today.

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