Bridge Across Broken Time

Chinese and Jewish Cultural Memory

Vera Schwarcz

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June 10, 2014
246 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
10 b/w illus.
ISBN: 9780300209785
Paper

Also Available in:
Cloth

In this remarkable book, Vera Schwarcz explores the meanings of cultural memory within the two longest surviving civilizations on earth. The author of previous books that the New York Times Book Review called "moving" and Jonathan Spence termed "subtle, elegiac, and elegant," Schwarcz finds a bridge between the vastly different Chinese and Jewish traditions in the fierce commitment to historical memory they share. For both, a chain of remembrance has allowed tradition to endure uninterrupted from ancient times to the present; for both, the transmission of remembrance and the bearing of active witness to the significance of the past are high moral values. From her unique standpoint as China scholar and daughter of survivors of the Holocaust, Schwarcz uncovers resonances between the narratives of Chinese intellectuals recovering from the trauma of the Cultural Revolution and the halting tales of her own parents.
Focusing on the transmission of cultural memory in these two cultures, the author examines how metaphor becomes an aid to memory, the role of personal remembrance in public commemorations, and the process of healing historical wounds. Combining poetry and historiography, oral interviews and archival documents, this book brings to life the struggles of Chinese and Jewish survivors who managed to cultivate memory through inimical times and preserve the continuity of their long traditions.

Vera Schwarcz is Freeman Professor of East Asian Studies at Wesleyan University. She is the author of seven books and over fifty articles on Chinese intellectual history and comparative memory studies, including Time for Telling Truth Is Running Out: Conversations with Zhang Shenfu, published by Yale University Press.

"This is a beautifully written, reflective personal essay on the role of memory for those whose history has been fragmented by trauma. Original and moving."—Paula E. Hyman, author of Gender and Assimilation in Modern Jewish History





"Schwarcz . . . moves beyond generalizations to create a haunting and original counterpoint of two very disparate traditions. . [This book] is at once a scholarly consideration of Chinese and Jewish intellectual life, a poetic evocation of the wrenching imperative of historical memory and an extraordinary personal story about uncovering family secrets."—Judith Shapiro, New York Times Book Review

"A haunting and original counterpoint of two very disparate traditions. Bridge Across Broken Time is at once a scholarly consideration of Chinese and Jewish intellectual life, a poetic evocation of the wrenching imperative of historical memory and an extraordinary personal story about uncovering family secrets."—Judith Shapiro, New York Times Book Review

"No mere scholarly exercise in etymology, this study looks at the cultural history of language. In doing so, Schwarcz travels beyond rational narratives into the realm of individual recollections expressed in the metaphors and poetics of lived experience. . . . This is . . . a study that is at once theoretically profound and richly nuanced with a sensitive engagement with human strategies of survival. An important book for those interested in the theory of social memory, and Chinese and Jewish culture. It is well footnoted, referenced, indexed, and illustrated. All levels"—Choice

"[This book] is at once theoretically profound and richly nuanced with a sensitive engagement with human strategies of survival. An important book for those interested in the theory of social memory, and Chinese and Jewish culture."—Choice

"Schwarcz's lyrical text offers a powerful account of the relationship between different cultural memories, Chinese and Jewish. She does this by linking together her own family narrative, the legacy of the Holocaust, with her scholarly work on China. . . . She reminds us that even scholarship about other traditions is also very much about self-knowledge."—Laura Levitt, Religious Studies Review

"[Schwarcz] expertly weaves tales of the destruction caused by the 1960s Cultural Revolution with horrors remembered by Shoah survivors, creating a fabric of enlightenment and love."—New Jewish Books


"Schwarcz . . . moves beyond generalizations to create a haunting and original counterpoint of two very disparate traditions. Bridge Across Broken Time is at once a scholarly consideration of Chinese and Jewish intellectual life, a poetic evocation of the wrenching imperative of historical memory and an extraordinary personal story about uncovering family secrets."—Judith Shapiro, Points East



"In this remarkable, Vera Schwarcz . . . creatively explores the meanings of cultural memory within Chinese and Jewish cultures, creating a haunting and original counterpoint of two disparate traditions. Bridge Across Broken Time is at once a scholarly consideration of Chinese and Jewish intellectual life, a poetic evocation of the wrenching imperative of historical memory and an extraordinary personal account about uncovering family secrets."—Chani Joanne Pfeiffer, Israfax

"Rarely does a book challenge a reader—or a reviewer—as this one does. Bridge Across Broken Time is equal parts academic study, meditation, and personal memoir. It demands not only reading, but reflection."—Brad Glosserman, Japan Times

"In [Schwarcz's] poetic, evocative work Bridge Across Broken Time she offers an unusual comparative history of memory in the Chinese and Jewish traditions with particular resonances for a traumatic modern history."—Susan A. Crane, Journal of Modern History

1998 Finalist of the Gerrard and Ella Berman Philanthropic Fund Award of the National Jewish Book Award, Jewish Book Council.

National Jewish Book Award in the History category
Time for Telling Truth is Running Out

Conversations with Zhang Shenfu

Vera Schwarcz

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