In a hundred-year period, a handful of men and women changed the world. Many of them are well known—Marx, Freud, Proust, Einstein, Kafka. Others have vanished from collective memory despite their enduring importance in our daily lives. Without Karl Landsteiner, for instance, there would be no blood transfusions or major surgery. Without Paul Ehrlich, no chemotherapy. Without Siegfried Marcus, no motor car. Without Rosalind Franklin, genetic science would look very different. Without Fritz Haber, there would not be enough food to sustain life on earth.
What do these visionaries have in common? They all had Jewish origins. They all had a gift for thinking in wholly original, even earth-shattering ways. In 1847, the Jewish people made up less than 0.25% of the world’s population, and yet they saw what others could not. How? Why?
Norman Lebrecht has devoted half of his life to pondering and researching the mindset of the Jewish intellectuals, writers, scientists, and thinkers who turned the tides of history and shaped the world today as we know it. In Genius & Anxiety, Lebrecht begins with the Communist Manifesto in 1847 and ends in 1947, when Israel was founded. This robust, magnificent, beautifully designed volume is “an urgent and moving history” (The Spectator, UK) and a celebration of Jewish genius and contribution.