Jurek Becker is May’s Pick for 12 Germans in 2016

Jacob the liar

Let’s move back in time a little bit for May’s book: Jurek Becker’s Jacob the Liar was published in 1969 in East Germany. Originally meant to be a movie script, Becker turned it into a book when movie production halted. Becker’s debut novel also became his most famous one. It earned him several literary prizes and was translated into 20 languages. The book was turned into a movie in 1974—the only East German movie ever nominated for an Oscar. (In 1999, Hollywood remade the movie with Robin Williams in the starring role.)

Please read along with me! My review will go up on May 31.

About the Book
In a Nazi-occupied Jewish ghetto during WW II, Jacob Heym gives hope to his fellow ghetto occupants by telling them he has clandestinely overheard a radio report that Russian troops are advancing and will soon liberate the ghetto. One life-sustaining lie leads to another as the former eatery owner, who now does back-breaking forced labor in a freight yard, circulates invented radio news of German defeats and Allied progress. In a moving, almost hallucinatory narrative that gives voice to a grief beyond words, Becker shows us ordinary people struggling to maintain their humanity and dignity. (Adapted from Publisher’s Weekly)


About the Author
Jurek Becker was born the son of Jewish parents in Lodz, Poland. His exact date of birth is unknown, though it is presumed to be September 30, 1937. Becker spent 5 years in the Lodz Ghetto and survived both the Ravensbrück and Sachsenhausen concentration camps. Following the war, he lived with his father in East Germany, where he was expelled from university and monitored by the Stasi (state security) once he started to disagree with the ruling party. In 1977, he was forced to resettle in West Germany, where he continued to write. His TV scripts became hugely successful in West Germany. He died of cancer on March 14, 1997.



  1. I tend to avoid holocaust novels, for obvious reasons. But I do have this in the TBR, so it’s time has come.

  2. Just reading the description for this book made me cry. I wish you luck getting through it without dissolving into a puddle of tears!
    I would love to be reading this one with you, too (if I had it)! It sounds excellent.

  3. To my shame, I’ve never heard of this book or its author… or seen the film. I must have been hiding under a stone or something – or else I’m younger than I thought…

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