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Before All The World

Paperback / ISBN-13: 9781472157430

Price: £9.99

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A mesmeric, enrapturing read’ Eimear McBride

‘Beautiful and original’ Colm Tóibín

‘In startling language filled with the flavor of Yiddish’s combination words, [Before All the World] moves forward and back and forward again in a dreamlike trance that acknowledges how the worst suffering exists side by side with the tender beauty of memory, friendship, words and the silences of recognition’ Ilana Masad, NPR

Before All the World is poetry as it should be: deliberate while feeling casual, a game with words that is at once playful and deadly serious (sometimes by turns, sometimes truly simultaneously) . . . It swallowed me up, and then all at once, a word or a phrase would reach me like a bolt of lightning, charring and electrifying me all through’ Jo Niederhoff, Seattle Book Review

‘Resembles something by Joyce or Samuel Beckett . . . A highly original and powerful tale told in defiance of the world’s darkness’ Stephanie Cross, The Daily Mail

Before All the World leaves you breathless . . . [Rothman-Zecher] has found a way to teach us how to find out what is most important about ourselves by losing himself in this novel of ingenious daring imagination and allowing us to accompany him on his ride. It is a masterful accomplishment that remains with the reader long after finishing this brilliant work’ Elaine Margolin, Women in Judaism

‘An emotionally evocative exploration of the impossibility of escaping trauma, yet finding hope nevertheless when all seems destroyed’ Hannah Srour-Zackon, The Canadian Jewish News

‘At its core, Before All the World considers one essential question: what does it mean to remember the past while still imagining the future? . . . Its most striking accomplishment is its invitation to the reader to become a part of the novel’s chorus. What will you do, it asks, now that you’ve read this story?’ Adina Applebaum, Jewish Book Council

‘Original, daring, experimental, moving, poignant, engaging . . . With shades of Tony Kushner and Cynthia Ozick . . . Before All the World understands how our worlds are made by words, and in the altering of the latter we may as yet redeem the former’ Ed Simon, The Millions, ‘Most Anticipated Books of 2022’

‘Rich and engrossing . . . A powerful story, brilliantly told’ Publishers Weekly, starred review

‘A one-of-a-kind creation’ Kirkus Reviews

‘ikh gleyb nit az di gantze velt iz kheyshekh’
‘I do not believe that all the world is darkness’

In the swirl of Prohibition-era Philadelphia, Leyb meets Charles. They are at a former speakeasy called Cricket’s, a bar that welcomes, as Charles says in his secondhand Yiddish, feygeles. Leyb is startled to hear his native tongue spoken by this beautiful Black man from the Seventh Ward whose life he will come to share.

Leyb is haunted by memories from before he came to America, growing up in the shtetl of Zatelsk, where one day every last person – except the ten non-Jews, a young poet named Gittl, and he himself – was taken to the forest and killed.

Flowing with a surge of language and synchrony, Gittl and Leyb are reunited – surrounded by the murmur of angelic voices – and together with Charles they each grapple with how to face, and sieze, whatever future lies ahead.

Carried along by questions of survival and hope, Before All the World lays bare the impossibility of escaping trauma, the necessity of believing in a better way, and the power that comes from our responsibility to the future. It asks, in the voices of its angels, the most essential question: What do you intend to do before all the world?

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Reviews

This is a tale flowing with Yiddish, a language that, for most of us, is an unknown tongue. Told from the perspective of folks living in Philadelphia, it surprises, disturbs, comforts and, yes, it even entertains. The story is poignant. The narrative pure and moving. It's like sitting in on a conversation between geniuses, who have lots to say about life and it's challenges, in a language you do not understand yet somehow it makes sense. Before All the World is a real treat for the heart as well as the mind
Linda Bond, Bookseller
At its core, Before All the World considers one essential question: what does it mean to remember the past while still imagining the future? . . . Its most striking accomplishment is its invitation to the reader to become a part of the novel's chorus. What will you do, it asks, now that you've read this story?
Adina Applebaum, Jewish Book Council
Before All the World is poetry as it should be: deliberate while feeling casual, a game with words that is at once playful and deadly serious (sometimes by turns, sometimes truly simultaneously). Just as poetry ought to, it swallowed me up, and then all at once, a word or a phrase would reach me like a bolt of lightning, charring and electrifying me all through
Seattle Book Review
Before All the World startles and swirls, and makes fresh the experience of language itself. It has it all: a gripping story, an original structure and a tender, ghostly glow
Justin Torres, author of We the Animals
Rich and engrossing . . . A powerful story, brilliantly told
Publishers Weekly, starred review
Before All the World is beautiful and original. It is also strange, arresting, high-risk. Very quickly this novel starts to work on the mind, making itself felt in complex and powerful and visionary ways, led by rhythm in the language and the urge to make that language new
Colm Tóibín
Original, daring, experimental, moving, poignant, engaging . . . With shades of Tony Kushner and Cynthia Ozick . . . Before All the World understands how our worlds are made by words, and in the altering of the latter we may as yet redeem the former
Ed Simon, The Millions, “Most Anticipated Books of 2022”
Before All the World is a song about survival and a refusal to be erased. Daringly crafted and poetically told, this novel is a celebration of Moriel Rothman-Zecher's extraordinary talent, compassion, and love for humanity. To read Before All the World is to abandon all of our expectations and privileges so that the torch of curiosity and the beauty of words can lead us to unexpected places, where we can see ourselves in those whom we might have considered the Other
Nguyen Phan Que Mai, author of The Mountains Sing
'Before All The World is astonishing, spellbinding and poetic. It is a groundbreaking and awe-inspiring song of resilience, memory, identity and love. I can't recall the last time I was so mesmerised by a work. The way the reader is carried by its characters, transported by its language, enveloped by its many worlds is stunningly beautiful. Simply, it's a masterpiece -one of those rare books that upon reaching its last words you immediately need to start reading again!'
Ariana Neumann, author of When Time Stopped
A ride as breathtaking as it is gratifying, Moriel Rothman-Zecher's Before All the World deftly explores the relationship between three broken people: two pogrom refugees persecuted in their homeland by virtue of religion who cross an ocean to cross paths with a man persecuted in his own homeland by virtue of race. With tragicomic adroitness, Rothman-Zecher's meticulous prose is full of delicious humour and irony, a glorious Yidenglish tapestry confirming that the world is indeed not all darkness
Kia Corthron, author of Moon and the Mars
A one-of-a-kind creation
Kirkus Reviews
A highly original and powerful tale told in defiance of the world's darkness
Daily Mail
In startling language filled with the flavour of Yiddish's combination words, [Before All the World] moves forward and back and forward again in a dreamlike trance that acknowledges how the worst suffering exists side by side with the tender beauty of memory, friendship, words and the silences of recognition
Ilana Masad, NPR, A Best Book of the Year
[Before All the World] offers readers characters who defy the binaries of western colonialism, characters who defy the borders of established language, who are both mourning and joyful, who are willing to question what they have to offer, what they will do as they live their lives before all the world
Jessica Thomas, The Yellow Springs News
'Evocative, inventive, vivid and strange Before All the World is a mesmeric, enrapturing read'
Eimear McBride
An emotionally evocative exploration of the impossibility of escaping trauma, yet finding hope nevertheless when all seems destroyed
Hannah Srour-Zackon, The Canadian Jewish News
Original, daring, experimental, moving, poignant, engaging . . . With shades of Tony Kushner and Cynthia Ozick . . . Before All the World understands how our worlds are made by words, and in the altering of the latter we may as yet redeem the former
The Millions, 'Most Anticipated Books of 2022'
Most closely resembles something by Joyce or Beckett . . . A highly original and powerful tale told in defiance of the world's darkness. A highly original and powerful tale told in defiance of the world's darkness
Stephanie Cross, Daily Mail
This is brilliant. I do love when authors do cool things with language (see also Fiebre Tropical by Julián Delgado Lopera). This is more than pure wordsmithing, however, as it is also very evocative and quite intensely emotional, perhaps even more so due to Rothman-Zecher's language mastery. Could not stop reading
Anton Bogomazov, Bookseller
Boldly imagined . . . Before All the World may be set in the 1930s, but it feels as though it is outside of time . . . Rothman-Zecher has uncovered something extraordinary: trauma itself is a kind of translation. It's a recreation of events that becomes more removed as time goes on, and language is our only guide
Mara Sandroff, Newcity Lit