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Dormant Account

Menashe Shahar, divorced and living in Tel Aviv, owns a publishing house with a glorious past and a shaky present. He decides to publish a book in memory of his grandfather, Aharon Zvi Morgenstern, an enigmatic, complex man who founded a Hebrew-language publishing house in Warsaw in the early 20th century. The plot moves between the grandfather’s story and that of his grandson, who inherited the firm. Morgenstern, a man of vision as well as a legendary businessman, fostered Hebrew writers as well as publishing the best European literature in Hebrew translation. An admirer of German culture, he later moved his publishing house to Germany, which he saw as the most enlightened country in Europe. Morgenstern’s life ended in a death camp in Poland. Years after, his grandson discovers that he had money in an unclaimed account in a Swiss bank.

In a plot akin to a detective story, Menashe traces his grandfather’s character and his fortunes. But the novel also aims higher, tackling the complex relations between Israelis and Germans today. Menashe gets the opportunity to cooperate with a German publisher, who wants to publish a bilingual series about the contribution of Jewish intellectuals to German culture. In the course of this project, Menashe also experiences new romance: a mysterious woman comes to his home, claiming to be a member of the Morgenstern family, and the two have a brief affair which dies down when the German publisher’s sexy daughter makes her appearance.

Dormant Account, a book permeated with a love of Hebrew literature, examines the tragic love of educated German Jews for the nation that rejected and wanted to erase them.

Title Dormant Account
Writer's Last Name Shaham
Writer's First Name Nathan
Genre Fiction
Publisher (Hebrew) Zmora-Bitan
No. Pages 272pp.
Book title - Hebrew (phonetic) Cheshbon Radum
  • “Lucid and thought-provoking…The future of Jews and Germans shines through in all its intellectual intensity.”

  • “A fascinating book…up-to-date and fresh...Shaham is elegiac and cynical, clear-cut and tortuous, yet everything combines harmoniously.”

  • “Brings the Europe that ceased to exist in 1939 back to life [with] impressive dramatic power.”