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The Emperor of Lies
by Steve Sem-Sandberg

RRP €12.80

The Emperor of Lies
by Author Name Steve Sem-Sandberg

Book details for title
List Price:12.80
Format: Paperback, 198 x 126 x 41mm, 672pp
Publication date: 05 Jan 2012
Publisher: Faber & Faber
ISBN-13: 9780571259212

Dubray Review

Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski, as the Jewish Elder, was charged with ensuring the smooth running of the Lodz ghetto in Poland in 1940 and, under his direction, the ghetto functioned as an enormous manufacturing plant. In this novel, Rumkowski genuinely seems to believe that he can save some of ‘his’ Jews by cooperating with the German authorities. When the deportations begin, he has influence over who should go and he advocates sacrificing the ill and the weak so that others may survive. Sem-Sandberg portrays Rumkowski as determined but vain. A morally ambiguous man, it is impossible to ascertain whether he was well-meaning but horribly misguided, or a cruel and egotistical Nazi collaborator. The Emperor of Lies is an illuminating if unsettling novel that allows the reader to make up their own mind about events that are not easily forgotten.

- Sally Kingston, Stillorgan


This is a compelling tale of power, corruption and compromise from one of Scandinavia's most revered authors. In February 1940, the Nazis established what would become the second largest Jewish ghetto in Poland, in the city of Lodz. Its chosen leader: Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski, a sixty-three-year-old Jewish businessman. Mysterious, ambiguous and monarchical, 'King Chaim' forced adults and children alike to work punishing hours providing supplies for the German military. Thousands of others were transported and never seen again. Was Rumkowski an accessory to the Nazi regime, driven by lust for power, or was he a pragmatic strategist, actively saving Jewish lives through apparent collaboration? Steve Sem-Sandberg draws on genuine chronicles of life in the Lodz ghetto to capture the full panorama of human resilience, and to question the nature of good and evil.


"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"

Additional Information

  • Illustrations: map