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“Farewell, Shanghai”, a novel

 by Angel Wagenstein


  • Jean Monnet Prize of European literature 2004

  • Shortlisted for VIK 2004 annual prize

  • Nomination for the international literary prize of Haus der Kulturen in Berlin


Rights sold in:

  • France (L’Esprit des péninsules; 10/18)

  • Germany (Random House)

  • Italy (Baldini Dalai Castoldi)

  • Macedonia (Makabej)

  • Spain (Libros del Asteroide)

  • USA (Other press)


Moving effortlessly from Paris to Dresden to Shanghai, Wagenstein (“Isaac’s Torah”) masterfully chronicles the lives of European émigrés and refugees in WWII Shanghai. The cast of this ensemble novel is large. Elisabeth and Theodore Weissberg, a German mezzo-soprano and her German-Jewish virtuoso violinist husband, flee Dresden to eke out an existence in Shanghai’s burgeoning Jewish ghetto, which ends up 30,000 strong as the Shoah begins. Hilde Braun, a German-Jewish actress, is living illegally in Paris aided by a mysterious Slav named Vladek, until events force them, separately, to Shanghai. Istvan Keleti, a homosexual Hungarian musician and drug-user, and Gertrude von Dammbach, a former call-girl-turned-baroness, are also among the persecuted and displaced, some of whom work with the Resistance to undermine Hitler. Wagenstein is impressive in his ability to move from the small details of individual displaced lives to a larger panorama of international intrigue: there’s a telling subplot about tensions between the Japanese, who occupy Shanghai, and the Germans, with whom they’ve formed an uneasy alliance; another revealing thread concerns the loyalties of Chinese Catholic nuns. Wagenstein brings to life a largely unknown chapter of Nazi persecution.



 “Isaac’s Torah”: Concerning the Life of Isaac Jacob Blumenfeld through Two World Wars, Three Concentration Camps and Five Motherlands.

Angel Wagenstein (author) October 15, 2008



Cinematic novel swirls around Jewish exiles in China


Born in 1922, Angel Wagenstein is the grand old man of Bulgarian cinema, renowned across Europe for his screenplays. No wonder, then, that the tormented protagonists and turbulent World War II landscapes of his novel Farewell, Shanghai emerge as vividly cinematic.


The Chinese city of the title is “the last lifesaving shore” for thousands of German and Austrian Jews fleeing Nazismin the late 1930s. Violinist TheodoreWeissberg is one among several former members of the Dresden Philharmonic who join the exodus. Even after being herded into a Jewish ghetto in Hongku and despite toiling at menial labor to eke out an existence, these musicians poignantly keep meeting for weekly sessions.


“They formed an unimaginable mix,” Wagenstein writes, “of porters who hadn’t shaved for a month, streetcleaners, and general laborers who either came straight from the weaving workshops in their worn-out duck clothes or quickly changed into their shabby, patched-up suits whose wrinkles still smelled of Germany.”


Wagenstein’s predilection for conspiracy theories — for instance, President Roosevelt has foreknowledge of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor — will understandably cause unease. Yet Farewell, Shanghai remains a profound examination of the radically different ways humans react tomoral challenges. Wagenstein bases a number of his characters on real-life figures, imparting a welcome historical dimension to the story. Moreover, the author proves equally adept at describingNaziDresden, prewar Paris and Japanese-occupied Shanghai.


Rayyan Al-Shawaf

The Tennessean


  Angel Wagenstein








Sweeping epic “Farewell, Shanghai” will have you at hello


Like an epic movie director from Hollywood’s Golden Age, Angel Wagenstein takes as the subject of his new novel nothing less than humanity – particularly, the humanity of Europe and Asia as it was tested during World War II in the Shanghai ghetto. Here, in one of the last open cities willing to take European Jews fleeing the Holocaust, the Bulgarian novelist sets refugees, spies and a few true believers into play for a sprawling and utterly engaging book, “Farewell, Shanghai”.


The San Francisco Chronicle

November 27, 2007



Based on real people and terrifyingly true events, Wagenstein's gripping tale (and its excellent translation into English) exposes the lessdiscussed but just as horrific history of the Nazi regime in China.


Helene Williams

Historical Novels Review

November, 2007



This is a narrative filled with barbarity and inhumanity leavened with fortitude and bravery. The fictional format chosen by the author provides an excellent vehicle for him to describe a relatively unfamiliar aspect of what happened to Jews during World War II. What he so ably sets forth has the true air of credibility, adding signifi-cantly to our knowledge about the Holocaust.


Morton I. Teicher

National Jewish Post & Opinion (Indianapolis, IN)

December 5, 2007


Part history lesson, part potboiler, Bulgarian writer Wagenstein’s novel, his first to be published in English, shows Jewish refugees struggling to survive in a Far East sanctuary.


Kirkus Reviews






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