Gronemann, Sammy. “Utter Chaos”, translated by Penny Milbouer, (Jewish Literature and Culture), Indiana University Press, 2016.
A Baptized Jew
Originally published in Germany in 1920, “Utter Chaos” is a satirical novel set in 1903 at the time of the Sixth Zionist Congress. It follows the life of a baptized Jew, Heinz Lehnsen, as he negotiates legal entanglements, German culture, religious differences, and Zionist aspirations. Things become really complicated when Heinz has a chance encounter with a long-lost cousin from a shtetl in Russia. This meeting challenges his notions of Jewish identity and their belief in the claims of the Zionist movement. Author Sammy Gronemann writes with humor and compassion as he exposes the foibles and contradictions of human behavior. We get a fascinating portrait of German Jews at the beginning of the twentieth century and learn about German society, German-Jewish culture, and anti-Semitism.“Utter Chaos” is an important literary and historical document of the Jewish experience in early twentieth-century Central and Eastern Europe.