The Elixir of Immortality: Book summary and reviews of The Elixir of Immortality by Gabi Gleichmann

The Elixir of Immortality

By Gabi Gleichmann

The Elixir of Immortality
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  • Published in USA  Oct 2013,
    800 pages.

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Book Summary

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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Media Reviews

"Starred Review. A Dan Brown novel done right, full of wit and mystery. Memorable and sure to be one of the big novels of the season." - Kirkus

"There are plenty of rich ingredients, but somehow they make for a bland broth rather than a rich stew. " - Publishers Weekly

"With its graphic depictions of torture and dismemberment, this book is not for the squeamish reader. However, the panorama of history refracted through the lens of Europe's Jewish community is breathtaking and heartbreaking in turn." - Library Journal

"An ample and fascinating, semi-fictional European chronicle of the old-new Jewish story in a broad historical context...[a] highly appealing narrative of exile and estrangement, of essential humanness and its spiritual potential for creativity and resilience through time and space." - Norman Manea, author of The Hooligan's Return

"It's the book of belonging and homelessness. It's a rich book: there is joy, drama, passion, defeat, victory in it; above all, words. Words, in great order." - Péter Esterházy

"In its mammoth scope and aspiration, The Elixir of Immortality is like no other contemporary novel. Call it, then, the humanity-besotted outpouring of a sublime and tragic jester." - Cynthia Ozick

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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 (translator) 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.

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