Bridge Across Broken Time: Chinese and Jewish Cultural Memory

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.

“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

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