In 1980, an entire body of Jewish literature - the physical remnant of Yiddish culture - was on the verge of extinction. Precious volumes that had survived Hitler and Stalin were being passed down from older generations of Jewish immigrants to their non-Yiddish speaking children only to be discarded or destroyed. A twenty-three-year-old student named Aaron Lansky set out to rescue the world's abandoned Yiddish books before it was too late.
Outwitting History is an adventure tale filled with unforgettable characters and told with the exhuberence of a man whose passion led him from house to house, country to country, collecting treasured books and heartfelt, often hilarious stories of the vibrant intellectual world these older Jews inhabited. Lansky and a team of young volunteers shlepped books from various attics and basements, demolition sites and dumpsters, while schmoozing with their owners, who insisted on feeding them a little nosh - gefilte fish, kasha, blintzes, latkes, kigel - before handing over, one book at a time, their beloved literary heritage.
When Lansky started out, experts believed that fewer than 70,000 Yiddish-language books still existed, he has now saved over 1.5 million books. As he takes us along on his groundbreaking journey, Lansky explores the roots of the Yiddish language and introduces us to the brilliant Yiddish writers - from Mendele to Sholem Aleichem to Issac Bashevis Singer - whose lasting cultural relevance is evident on every page.