Odessa: Genius and Death in a City of Dreams

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A colorful account of the transformation of one of Europe’s foremost Jewish cities, told through the stories of its geniuses and villains.

Italian merchants, Greek freedom fighters, and Turkish seamen; a Russian empress and her favorite soldier-bureaucrats; Jewish tavern keepers, traders, and journalists-these and many others seeking fortune and adventure rubbed shoulders in Odessa, the greatest port on the Black Sea.

Here a dream of cosmopolitan freedom inspired geniuses and innovators, from Alexander Pushkin and Isaac Babel to Zionist activist Vladimir Jabotinsky and immunologist Ilya Mechnikov. Yet here too was death on a staggering scale: not only the insidious plagues common to seaports but also the mass murder of Jews carried out by the Romanian occupation during World War II.

Drawing on a wealth of original source material, Odessa is an elegy for the vibrant, multicultural tapestry of which a thriving Jewish population formed an essential part, as well as a celebration of the survival of Odessa’s dream in a diaspora reaching all the way to Brighton Beach. 25 black-and-white illustrations

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