The Autobiography of Solomon Maimon: The Complete Translation

Solomon Maimon (Author) Gideon Freudenthal (Afterword by)
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The first complete and annotated English translation of Maimon's influential and delightfully entertaining memoir

Solomon Maimon's autobiography has delighted readers for more than two hundred years, from Goethe, Schiller, and George Eliot to Walter Benjamin and Hannah Arendt. The American poet and critic Adam Kirsch has named it one of the most crucial Jewish books of modern times. Here is the first complete and annotated English edition of this enduring and lively work.

Born into a down-on-its-luck provincial Jewish family in 1753, Maimon quickly distinguished himself as a prodigy in learning. Even as a young child, he chafed at the constraints of his Talmudic education and rabbinical training. He recounts how he sought stimulation in the Hasidic community and among students of the Kabbalah--and offers rare and often wickedly funny accounts of both. After a series of picaresque misadventures, Maimon reached Berlin, where he became part of the city's famed Jewish Enlightenment and achieved the philosophical education he so desperately wanted, winning acclaim for being the sharpest of Kant's critics, as Kant himself described him.

This new edition restores text cut from the abridged 1888 translation by J. Clark Murray, which has long been the only available English edition. Paul Reitter's translation is brilliantly sensitive to the subtleties of Maimon's prose while providing a fluid rendering that contemporary readers will enjoy, and is accompanied by an introduction and notes by Yitzhak Melamed and Abraham Socher that give invaluable insights into Maimon and his extraordinary life. The book also features an afterword by Gideon Freudenthal that provides an authoritative overview of Maimon's contribution to modern philosophy.

Product Details

Princeton University Press
Publish Date
January 15, 2019
6.3 X 1.1 X 9.4 inches | 1.3 pounds
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About the Author

Yitzhak Y. Melamed is the Charlotte Bloomberg Professor of Philosophy at Johns Hopkins University. Abraham Socher is associate professor of Jewish studies and religion at Oberlin College. Paul Reitter is professor of Germanic languages and literatures at Ohio State University. Gideon Freudenthal is professor emeritus at Tel Aviv University's Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas.


"Solomon Maimon was, quite simply, one of the most important philosophers of the Jewish Enlightenment. Both brilliant and eccentric, he set out in 1792 to write the first autobiography ever written in German by a Jew. It is a work of great literary and philosophical significance that is now finally available in a splendid and unabridged English translation."--Liliane Weissberg, University of Pennsylvania
"This new translation of Maimon's pathbreaking autobiography is timely, and the editors and translator are exactly the right team to pull it off. It is a kind of Jewish picaresque, with Maimon playing the role of the rude barbarian who can't help but import his Talmudic sensibility into the philosophical debates of late eighteenth-century Germany."--David Biale, coauthor of Hasidism: A New History
"Reitter's translation captures the drive, energy, humor, and occasional irreverence of the original German, while annotations by Melamed and Socher supply the information readers need to read Maimon's autobiography with pleasure."--Jonathan M. Hess, author of Deborah and Her Sisters: How One Nineteenth-Century Melodrama and a Host of Celebrated Actresses Put Judaism on the World Stage

The collaborative product of four scholars, this impressive new edition makes available
Maimon's autobiography as he intended it be read.

"---David Sorkin, Intellectual History Review