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Encyclopedia > Jacob the Liar

Jakob the Liar is a novel written by the Polish author Jurek Becker published in 1969. The German original title is "Jakob der Lügner". He was awarded the Heinrich-Mann-Prize (1971) and the Charles-Veillon-Prize (1971)after the publication of his bestseller. The word author has several meanings: The author of a book, story, article or the like, is the person who has written it (or is writing it). ... Jurek Becker (* September 30, 1937, Lodz (Poland), † March 14, 1997, Berlin) was a german writer. ... 1969 (MCMLXIX) was a common year starting on Wednesday For other uses, see Number 1969. ... 1971 (MCMLXXI) is a common year starting on Friday (click for link to calendar). ... 1971 (MCMLXXI) is a common year starting on Friday (click for link to calendar). ... A bestseller is a book that is identified as extremely popular by its inclusion on a list of top-sellers. ...

This novel stands out by the style and the narration, concerning the events in the Ghetto.


The novel follows the life of the Jewish protagonist Jacob Heym in the Ghetto of Lodz, Poland. He walks around the ghetto and is suddenly stopped by an intangible, but human and bored-seeming German officer on a sentry. He sends him to the precinct by pretending that it is after 8 pm, the curfew for Jews. Jacob obeys him submissively and is followed to the main quarter by the sentinel's searchlight. He arrives at the hall where he suddenly hears radio news reporting about the approach of the Red Army. In a miraclous way, Jacob is released from this precinct, the sentinel was just kidding, it not 8 o clock yet. A Jew who had entered this quarter never came out before. Jacob cannot believe he was released and is full of hope since he listened to the Radio-news. // Judaism is the religion of the Jewish people. ... The protagonist is the central figure of a story, and is often referred to as a storys main character. ... . Łódź (pronunciation: ) is the second-largest city (population 776,297 in 2004) of Poland, located in the centre of the country. ... In military organizations, an officer is a member of the service who holds a position of responsibility. ... Red Army flag The short forms Red Army and RKKA refer to the Workers and Peasants Red Army, (Рабоче-Крестьянская Красная Армия - Raboche-Krestyanskaya Krasnaya Armiya in Russian), the armed forces organised by the Bolsheviks during the Russian Civil War in 1918. ...

The next day he works with his partner Mischa, who wants to risk his life by stealing potatoes. In the last moment Jacob lets him stumble and wants to give him hope: He tells him about the radio news. This is a main conflict and the true beginning of the novel. Jacob lies for the first time by pretending that he possesses a radio since he figures that nobody would believe him if he tells them he saw the precinct from inside. Does he act responsibly by lying, even if he has only good intentions? Jacob has enliven Mischa who immediately hastens to the parents of Rosa Frankfurter. Having promised Jacob not to mention his name when expanding the news about the Russians approaching, Mischa shows up to be perfidious: after the sceptical father, Felix Frankfurter, slaps him in the face out of fury because he propagates news without hold, he spreads the lie out: Jacob possesses a Radio. Jacob decides first to disabuse Mischa and the Frankfurters but when he notices that he brought hope and life to the whole ghetto, his repent is alleviated. Now it counts to be inventive, it is tough to maintain the lie, he has to think about new scenarios every day. His imagination is asked to maintain the good, mutual atmosphere and the momentary absence of suicide. Striving to propagate some real news, he decides to steal a newspaper from an "Aryan water closet", which is strictly prohibited to enter for Jews. He enters the toilet and a nervous guard comes close to the toilet. In this moment Jacob’s friend Kowalsky distracts the watchman’s attention by knocking over boxes and saves Jacob’s life. The next day Herschel Schtamm, a usually scary and “reasonable” man, hears voices coming out of a wagon, the persons in there are being deported. But he dares to approach the wagon to give them some hope by telling them the news. He is shot by a watchman. Jacob feels responsible for Schtamm’s death. He comes home and finds out that Lina, Jacob’s adopted child whose parents are deported and which is hidden from the Germans, was looking for the radio while he was gone. He told her not to get into his room but feels that she badly wants to listen to the radio and thus, Jacob uses all his strength, energy, and imagination, to imitate a radio-show. He emulates the voice of Winston Churchill and tells her the metaphoric, very symbolic and connoting story of the princess who became ill because nobody could provide her a cloud, until a gardener came and brought her a cloud out of cotton wool, because she thought a cloud consisted out of wool. It implicates the question of authentic need and of course the question about the imagined world lead by the lies of Jacob inside the Ghetto. The princess became healthy after she received the “faked” cloud. It is true that Jews have never been enjoying a candid confrontation with the virtual circumstances. The lie begins to compensate. He pretends the radio to be defect and the people begin to be awkward. He is cloistered by different people who are either begging for news, inculpating him, or pretending friendship to get access to the news. Jacob cannot stand this pressure and confesses everything to Kowalsky who reassures him, that he understands everything and would have acted exactly in the same way. Aryan is an English word derived from the Indo-Aryan Vedic Sanskrit and Iranian Avestan terms ari-, arya-, ārya-, and/or the extended form aryāna-. The Old Persian (Iranian) ariya- is a cognate as well. ... The Right Honourable Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, KG, OM, CH, TD, FRS (30 November 1874 – 24 January 1965) was an British statesman, best known as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. ...

The novel has two ends, the narrator thinks that there should be his own, independent end, but he also wants to corroborate the fact that he tries to reach the reader and thus, proposes a second ending.

The two Ends

The fictive ending (the dignified ending)

Jacob tries to escape under the huge fence and gets shot. This happens one day before the Russians arrive to liberate them all. Jacob is a true, tragic hero who has devoted his life to others.

The true ending (the non-dignified ending)

Kowalsky hangs himself shortly after that confession. Everybody gets deported. A rather disillusioning and tragical ending, which is not worthy. It is realistic, one can foretell the ending, it is ruining the story and turning it absurd.



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