Conversations with friends: Novelist Max Gross: When Google meets shtetl

February 05, 2021

Here is another discussion in my series “Conversations with friends”.

Novelist Max Gross: When Google meets shtetl

Deep in the forests of eastern Poland, the Yiddish-speaking orthodox Jewish shtetl of Kreskol lies forgotten, cut off from the world and undiscovered by both the Nazis and the modern Polish state – Europe’s last shtetl. Such is the seemingly absurd premise of Max Gross’s new novel.

And yet somehow Max concocts a storyline that is just about plausible in a book that is both amusing and also raises serious questions about what it means for the modern world to meet a world where there is still no electricity, running water, or paved roads, let alone cars, computers or phones. As Tom says, “it’s Google meets shtetl”.

Tom and Max discuss how these shtetls, which were relatively backward places of the kind depicted in “Fiddler on the Roof,” nevertheless had such deep reverence for study and the importance of books, that the children and grandchildren of those who left the shtetl changed the world – winning Nobel prizes, revolutionizing science, medicine and commerce, as well as helping create Hollywood and the modern entertainment industry.

(Discussion by zoom, February 3, 2021.)



* Other videos in this “Conversations with friends” series can be viewed here:

Tom Gross talks with friends around the world about their lives. They include musicians, historians, writers, newspaper editors and columnists, retired intelligence officers, Palestinian academics and journalists, and Oscar-nominated filmmakers.


Tom Gross interviewed about his own life here:

As part of a series of informal conservations with friends, Paul Lewis asks Tom Gross about his own life and views: growing up surrounded by cultural and literary luminaries in London and New York; Sunday brunches with Elvis Presley’s songwriter; crossing Checkpoint Charlie into East Berlin with his grandmother during communism; sitting across the breakfast room from Carlos the Jackal; visiting Prague as a student to bring Vaclav Havel materials from London in the months before Havel helped overthrow communism; Tom helping the Roma when almost no one else would; Tom’s close relationship with his godmother Sonia Orwell (the model for Julia, the heroine of her husband’s masterpiece ‘1984’); being in Manhattan on 9/11; the Mideast; the importance and legacy of the Holocaust; and other matters.


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