Daniel Mendelsohn

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Daniel Mendelsohn
Mendelsohn at the 2018 Texas Book Festival
Mendelsohn at the 2018 Texas Book Festival
BornDaniel Adam Mendelsohn
1960 (age 57–58)
Long Island, New York, U.S.A.
OccupationAuthor, essayist, critic, columnist, translator
GenreCriticism, Non-fiction, memoir
SubjectHolocaust, Judaism, classics, Cavafy, literature, film, theater, television

Daniel Mendelsohn (born 16 April 1960) is an American memoirist, essayist, critic, columnist, and translator.

Life and career[edit]

Mendelsohn was born on Long Island and raised in the town of Old Bethpage, New York. He attended the University of Virginia from 1978 to 1982 as an Echols Scholar, graduating with a B.A. summa cum laude in Classics. From 1982 to 1985, he resided in New York City, working as an assistant to an opera impresario, Joseph A. Scuro.[1] The following year he began graduate studies at Princeton University, receiving his M.A. in 1989 and his Ph.D. in 1994. His dissertation, later published as a scholarly monograph by Oxford University Press, was on Euripidean tragedy.

Mendelsohn began contributing reviews, op-eds, and essays to such publications as QW, Out, The New York Times, The Nation, and The Village Voice while still a graduate student; after completing his Ph.D., he moved to New York City and began writing full-time. Since then his review-essays on books, films, theater and television have appeared frequently in a number of major publications, most often in The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books. Others include Town & Country (magazine), The New York Times Magazine, Travel + Leisure, Newsweek, Esquire, The Paris Review, The New Republic, and Harpers magazine, where he was a culture columnist. Between 2000 and 2002 he was the weekly book critic for New York Magazine; his reviews have also appeared frequently in The New York Times Book Review, where, from 2013 to 2014, he was also a columnist for the "Bookends" page.

Mendelsohn has been the recipient of numerous prizes and honors both in the United States and abroad. Apart from awards for individual books, these include the American Academy of Arts and Letters Harold D. Vursell Memorial Prize for Prose Style (2014); the American Philological Association President's Award for service to the Classics (2014); the George Jean Nathan Prize for Drama Criticism (2002); and the National Book Critics Circle Award Citation for Excellence in Book Reviewing (2000).

Mendelsohn's academic speciality was Greek (especially Euripidean) tragedy; he also published scholarly articles about Roman poetry and Greek religion. During the 1990s, he taught intermittently as a Lecturer in the Classics department at Princeton University. In the fall of 2006 he was named to the Charles Ranlett Flint Chair in Humanities at Bard College, where he teaches one course each semester on literary subjects. In April 2008, he was the Richard Holbrooke Distinguished Visitor at the American Academy in Berlin, Germany. In the Spring of 2010, he was a Critic-in-Residence at the American Academy in Rome, and in April 2014 was a visiting writer at the Ca' Foscari University of Venice.

Mendelsohn is one of five siblings. His brothers include film director Eric Mendelsohn and Matt Mendelsohn, a photographer; his sister, Jennifer Mendelsohn, is also a journalist.[2]

Awards and honors[edit]

Major works[edit]

  • The Elusive Embrace: Desire and the Riddle of Identity, a memoir entwining themes of gay identity, family history, and Classical myth and literature, was published in 1999 by Alfred A. Knopf, and was named a The New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year. It was published in a French translation as L'étreinte fugitive by Flammarion in January, 2009.
  • Gender and the City in Euripides' Political Plays, a scholarly study of Greek tragedy, published by Oxford University Press in 2002, with a paperback edition published in 2005.
  • The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million (2006), the story of the author's worldwide search over five years to learn about the fates of relatives who perished in the Holocaust. After the book's publication in a bestselling French translation, in 2007, film rights were optioned by director Jean-Luc Godard.
  • How Beautiful It Is And How Easily It Can Be Broken, a collection of essays on literature and the arts, mostly from The New York Review of Books, was published in August, 2008 and named a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2008.
  • C. P. Cavafy: Collected Poems and C. P. Cavafy: The Unfinished Poems, published simultaneously in March 2009. Mendelsohn's Cavafy translation was a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2009, and was shortlisted for the Criticos Prize (UK). The two-volume hardcover edition was published as a single-volume paperback by Vintage Books in May 2012; a selection was published in the Everyman's Library Pocket Poets series in 2014.
  • Waiting for the Barbarians: Essays from the Classics to Pop Culture, a second collection of essays, covering movies, theater, opera, poetry, fiction, and memoir, mostly from The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books, was published by New York Review Books in October, 2012, with a paperback publication in 2014.
  • An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic, a memoir intertwining a personal narrative about the author's late father, Jay, a retired research scientist who decided to enroll in his son's Spring, 2011 Odyssey seminar at Bard College, with reflections on the text of Homer's Odyssey and its theme of father-son relationships, education, and identity. The book, the third in which the author combines memoir and literary criticism, was published by Knopf in September 2017 to acclaim in the U.S., France, and Norway.



  • Mendelsohn, Daniel (1999). The elusive embrace : desire and the riddle of identity. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
  • — (2002). Gender and the city in Euripides' political plays. Oxford University Press.
  • The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million, HarperCollins, 2006.
  • How Beautiful It Is And How Easily It Can Be Broken, HarperCollins, 2008.
  • C. P. Cavafy: Collected Poems and C. P. Cavafy: The Unfinished Poems, Knopf, 2009.
  • Waiting for the Barbarians: Essays from the Classics to Pop Culture, New York Review Books, 2012.
  • An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic, Knopf, 2017.

Essays and reporting[edit]


  1. ^ Astri von Arbin Ahlander (2011-06-27). “Interview with Daniel Mendelsohn”. The Days of Yore. http://www.thedaysofyore.com/daniel-mendelsohn/ Retrieved 2012-01-19
  2. ^ Scott Foundas (2010-01-21). "3 Backyards: Secrets and Insides - Page 2 - Film+TV - Los Angeles". LA Weekly. Retrieved 2010-12-07. Mendelsohn was born in 1964 in Old Bethpage, Long Island, the fourth of five children of a scientist father (who designed target-recognition technology for F14 aircraft at Grumman Aerospace) and teacher mother. His siblings include a photographer, a physicist, journalist Jennifer Mendelsohn and critic and author Daniel Mendelsohn, whose best-selling, Holocaust-themed memoir, The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million, is currently being developed as a film by Jean-Luc Godard.
  3. ^ http://alumni.princeton.edu/volunteer/awards/jamesmadisonmedal/
  4. ^ http://www.pen.org/content/pendiamonstein-spielvogel-award-art-essay-10000
  5. ^ John Williams (January 14, 2012). "National Book Critics Circle Names 2012 Award Finalists". The New York Times. Retrieved January 15, 2013.
  6. ^ RMS Titanic.

External links[edit]