OVERRIDE

The Emperor of Lies

A Novel

Steve Sem-Sandberg; Translated from the Swedish by Sarah Death

Picador

In February 1940, the Nazis established what would become the second-largest Jewish ghetto, in the Polish city of Lódz. The leader they appointed was Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski, a sixty-three-year-old Jewish businessman and orphanage director—and the elusive, authoritarian power sustaining the ghetto’s very existence.

A haunting, profoundly challenging novel, The Emperor of Lies chronicles the tale of Rumkowski’s monarchical rule over a quarter-million Jews for the next four and a half years. Driven by a titanic ambition, he sought to transform the ghetto into a productive industrial complex and strove to make it—and himself—indispensable to the Nazi regime. These compromises would have extraordinary consequences not only for Rumkowski but for everyone living in the ghetto. Drawing on the detailed records of life in Lódz, Steve Sem-Sandberg, in a masterful feat of literary imagination and empathy, captures the full panorama of human resilience and probes deeply into the nature of evil. Through the dramatic narrative, he asks the most difficult questions: Was Rumkowski a ruthless opportunist, an accessory to the Nazi regime motivated by a lust for power? Or was he a pragmatist who managed to save Jewish lives through his collaboration policies? How did the inhabitants of the ghetto survive in such extreme circumstances?

A critically acclaimed breakout bestseller in Sweden, The Emperor of Lies introduces a writer of great significance to American readers. The archives detail daily life in the Lodz ghetto, under the reign of Rumkowki, but it takes a writer with Sem-Sandberg’s singular talent to help us understand the truth of this chilling history.

BOOK EXCERPTS

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prologue

The Chairman Alone
(1–4 September 1942)

Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.

Ecclesiastes 9:10

That was the day, engraved forever in the memory of the ghetto, when the Chairman announced in front of everyone that he had no choice but to let the children and old people of the ghetto go. Once he had made his proclamation that afternoon, he went to his office on Bałuty Square and sat waiting for higher powers to intervene to save him. He had
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REVIEWS

Praise for The Emperor of Lies

"Mesmerizing...An irresistible work of fiction, absorbing from first page to last...Dickens would have been very pleased with this novel."—Carmen Callil, The Guardian (London)

"Was Rumkowski a sinner or a saint? Collaborator or a liberator? It is around this central question that The Emperor of Lies swirls, providing along the way. . . cinematic detail that invites immersion in the way few contemporary novels of serious ambition do."—Daphne Merkin, The New York Times Book Review

"A resolute masterpiece, The Emperor of Lies looks for truths in the great domain of dissolving syntax and shadows we call history....A great achievement."—Sebastian Barry, Salon

In the Press

THE EMPEROR OF LIES by Steve Sem-Sandberg, Sarah DeathKirkus Book Reviews
Read the Kirkus Review of THE EMPEROR OF LIES . A Swedish bestseller, this sprawling, Dickensian novel of the Holocaust now lands in America, where it is sure to attract attention.
- Kirkus Reviews

Reviews from Goodreads

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The Emperor of Lies

A Novel

Steve Sem-Sandberg; Translated from the Swedish by Sarah Death

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Picador

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