Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another


Sorry, Silbermann

Lost Books

Print Email

“Lost Books” is a weekly series highlighting forgotten books through the prism of Tablet Magazine’s and’s archives. So blow the dust off the cover, and begin!

Considering the grossly caricatured David Silbermann, the main character in Jacques de Lacretelle’s novel, Silbermann, it’s difficult to belief that the book was positively received by Jewish readers upon its 1922 publication. Yet, as Paul La Farge pointed out in 2005, the fictional account of a Protestant boy befriending the bewitchingly smart Silbermann in high school, written by a Protestant in post-Dreyfus France, was striking enough to earn widespread, laudatory attention from the Jewish community.

Almost a century later, we are able to view Lacretelle’s crude characterization with more scrutiny. “Little is missing from this description of the Wandering Jew,” La Farge wrote, “except, perhaps, beady eyes, or a patched coat, or a sack of gold.” Given the opportunity to reflect on the character several decades after the novel’s publication, Lacretelle himself noted, “Is it overdone, this portrait of a young Jew, animated by intellectual ambition? Did I carve his features too deeply, shade his scenes too dark? Assuredly yes. But you must understand why. When one sets out to create a type, one has to make him larger than life.”

For this narrative misstep, the flattening of an admittedly brilliant, evolved young man into a symbol of the Jew as outsider, Lacretelle earns La Farge’s ire; for setting himself apart from a character whose intellectual proclivities so closely resemble his own, Lacretelle commits what La Farge deems a fundamental, ethnocentric error: “he forgets that we are, in large part, them.”

Read School Ties, by Paul La Farge

Print Email

Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.

Wonderful items of your stuff, guy. I have study your own stuff in front of as well as you are equally well amazing. I like exactly what you have right here, adore what you are stating and exactly how you say this. You are making it entertaining and also you even now manage to help to keep this wise. I cannot wait to undergo additional from you. That’s truly an incredible website.


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

Sorry, Silbermann

Lost Books

More on Tablet:

A Tale of Three Twitter Feeds: Hamas Tweets in Arabic, English, and Hebrew

By Aaron Magid — Analysis of the social-media messaging of Hamas’ military wing reveals distinct voices for the West, the Arab Middle East, and Israel