When the Dead Come Back to Life as Literary Critics

By Jeffrey Goldberg

Rodger Kamenetz recently wrote a joint portrait of Franz Kafka and Reb Nachman of Bratslav for Nextbook. D.G. Myers reviewed said book, unfavorably, in Commentary (which you have to pay for in order to read). Then things got strange. Apparently, Reb Nachman, is capable of sarcasm, and also writing, even though he's been dead for 200 years. Nachman sent a letter to Myers through Jonathan Rosen, Kamenetz's publisher. Read the review, and the letter, and also the book, by the way; I'm reading it right now and learning things I didn't previously know. Here's a portion of Reb Nachman's letter from the beyond the grave:

I am writing about your review of Rodger Kamenetz's Burnt Books, a review which depressed me very much, and believe me I was depressed to begin with, even before I died 200 years ago--though since dying I am no longer so manic as I used to be. Also I've learned English.

Before you stop reading let me say quickly that this is not the letter of a crazy person. You will be happy to know that death has rendered me completely sane. I am no longer Chasidic--which is a form of madness all its own; I now go to a Conservadox shul, which is very easy in olam habah (the afterlife) since nobody drives anyway. Also you cannot die of boredom because, thank God, you are already dead.

Briefly, I want to congratulate you on your review in Commentary. For Burnt Books is a dangerous book that deserves destruction! And you did an admirable job.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2011/02/when-the-dead-come-back-to-life-as-literary-critics/70903/