Translated from the original Swedish by Sarah Death
In February 1940 the Nazis established what would become the second largest Jewish ghetto in Poland, in the city of Lodz. A wire fence was built around the Old City, completely separating Jewish families, some quarter of a million people, from the rest of the population. The fence was patrolled by police ordered to shoot on sight should anyone attempt to escape.
The ghetto’s chosen leader was Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski, a sixty-three-year-old Jewish businessman. Mysterious, ambiguous, monarchical, ‘King Chaim’ was motivated by a titanic ambition. Realising that his survival rested upon his ability to make the ghetto indispensable, he sought to transform it into a productive industrial complex, forcing adults and children alike to work punishing hours in workshops to provide supplies for the German military.
Was Rumkowksi a ruthless opportunist – an accessory to the Nazi regime driven by a lust for power? Or was he a pragmatic strategist who managed to save Jewish lives through collaboration? Steve Sem-Sandberg’s extraordinary novel draws on genuine chronicles of life in the Lodz ghetto to ask the most difficult questions about survival and oppression.
Now published in over twenty languages, The Emperor of Lies is one of the great Holocaust novels of the twenty-first century by one of Scandinavia’s most admired authors.
About the Author
Steve Sem-Sandberg is a Swedish writer who was born in Oslo in 1958, and now divides his time between Vienna and Stockholm. He is a literary critic and translator as well as a prize-winning novelist. The Emperor of Lies is a bestseller in Scandinavia and won the August Prize, the Swedish equivalent of the Man Booker Prize, in 2009.
The Emperor of Lies is a story about the abuse of power and how the power can be used to survive. It shows how power corrupts in general. It depicts how a slave in power must constantly prove the fact that he has the power indeed. He needs to stand out from the slavery by the use of power over someone weaker and poorer.