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Peter Filkins Chronicles the Remarkable Story of H.G. Adler

In H.G. Adler: A Life in Many Worlds, faculty member Peter Filkins presents the first thorough examination of Adler’s life and legacy, from Holocaust survivor to renowned novelist.

A writer’s writer, H.G. Adler engaged with widely known figures of his time—Hannah Arendt, Martin Buber and Nobel-winner Elias Canetti, for instance—but remained largely unknown to the general public himself. That’s unfortunate, considering his remarkable and prolific literary and scholarly career. Adler, who devoted himself to telling the stories of those who perished in the Holocaust, published over two dozen books of fiction, poetry, history, sociology, and religion.

Three of Adler’s novels have been translated in English by Peter Filkins, the Richard B. Fisher Professor of Literature at Bard College at Simon's Rock. More recently, Peter has turned attention to Adler himself, with a new biography set for publication in 2019.

Every page of Adler's work was written with the urgent rigor demanded by survivorship, and Peter Filkins—Adler's English-language translator and now his world-biographer—honors that daunting mandate. His is a masterly and utterly engrossing study of one of the greatest minds to have been forged in the furnace of mid-twentieth-century Europe.

-Joshua Cohen, author of Witz and Book of Numbers.


In H.G. Adler: A Life in Many Worlds, Peter sets out to recover and extol the life of an important witness to the greatest cataclysm of the 20th century. Adler survived Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, and two other concentration camps. His first wife, Gertrud Klepetar, did not, accompanying her mother to the gas chamber in Auschwitz. Adler’s story of love and loss continues with the courtship and extended correspondence with Bettina Gross, a Prague artist who escaped to the Britain, only to later learn that her mother had also been in Theresienstadt with Adler before her eventual death in Auschwitz.

Adler produced seminal, pioneering works on the Holocaust and also earned his renown as a radio essayist in postwar Germany, a last representative of the Prague Circle of literature headed by Kafka, and a key contributor to the prosecution in the trial of Adolf Eichmann.

Peter makes ample use of archival research, including hundreds of letters by and to Adler, to create a lively, engaging biography that’s bound to help Adler become better known throughout the western world.

A remarkable achievement based on formidable research and a comprehensive knowledge of H.G Adler’s life and work. It will finally introduce readers to a uniquely talented Holocaust survivor who merits acclaim in equal measure as a poet, novelist, essayist and historian.

-Lawrence L. Langer, author of Holocaust Testimonies: The Ruins of Memory

H.G. Adler: A Life in Many Worlds is scheduled for release by Oxford University Press on March 1, 2019. To mark its debut, Peter will read from and discuss the book during a special event at Simon’s Rock on Monday, February 25, 2019.