Daniel Mendelsohn

Daniel Mendelsohn (born 1960), an American memoirist, essayist, critic, columnist, and translator, is the Editor at Large of the New York Review of Books. He is also the Director of the Robert B. Silvers Foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to supporting writers of nonfiction.

Daniel Mendelsohn
Daniel Mendelsohn in 2012
Daniel Mendelsohn in 2012
BornDaniel Adam Mendelsohn
1960 (age 59–60)
Long Island, New York, U.S.A.
OccupationAuthor, essayist, critic, columnist, translator
LanguageEnglish, Greek, French
Alma materUniversity of Virginia (BA)
Princeton University (MA, PhD)
Home townOld Bethpage, New York
GenreCriticism, Non-fiction, Memoir
SubjectHolocaust, Judaism, Classics, Cavafy, Literature, Film, Theater, Television
Notable worksThe Lost (2006)
An Odyssey (2017)

Life and careerEdit

Mendelsohn was born to a Jewish family[1] in New York City and raised on Long Island in the town of Old Bethpage, New York. He attended the University of Virginia from 1978 to 1982 as an Echols Scholar,[2] 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.[3] 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.

While still a graduate student, Mendelsohn began contributing reviews, op-eds, and essays to such publications as QW, Out, The New York Times, The Nation, and The Village Voice; 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 numerous 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 Harper's magazine, where Mendelsohn 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 he was also a columnist for the "Bookends" page.

Mendelsohn is the author of eight books, including the New York Times and international bestseller The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million. He is currently at work on a new translation of Homer's The Odyssey for the University of Chicago Press,[4] and his third collection of essays, Ecstasy and Terror: From the Greeks to Game of Thrones, covering subjects from Sappho and Virgil to television and films such as Ex Machina and Her to the fiction of Karl Ove Knausgaard and Hanya Yanagihara, will be published in October, 2019 by New York Review Books.[5]

Mendelsohn is one of five siblings. His brothers include film director Eric Mendelsohn and Matt Mendelsohn, a photographer; his sister, Jennifer Mendelsohn , also a journalist, is the founder of "#ResistanceGenealogy".[6][7] He is the nephew of the psychologist Allan Rechtschaffen. He is gay.[8]

The New York Review of BooksEdit

Mendelsohn began contributing to the New York Review of Books early in 2000, and soon became a frequent contributor, publishing articles on a wide range of subjects including Greek drama and poetry, American and British theater, literature, television, and film.[9] Over time he became a close personal friend of the founding editor Robert B. Silvers and Silvers' partner, Grace, Countess of Dudley.[10]

During a period of editorial reorganization in the year and a half following Silvers' death, Mendelsohn was named the first Editor-at-Large of the Review, a position created for him by the publisher, Rea Hederman, to go alongside the editorship, which is currently split between co-editors Emily Greenhouse and Gabriel Winslow-Yost.[11][12]

In February, 2019, Hederman also announced that Mendelsohn had been named Director of the Robert B. Silvers Foundation, as per a stipulation in Silvers' will. The Foundation is dedicated to supporting writers of nonfiction of the kind Silvers fostered at the Review: long-form criticism and journalism and writing on arts and culture.[11]

Academic Career and PositionsEdit

Mendelsohn's academic speciality was Greek (especially Euripidean) tragedy; he has also published scholarly articles about Roman poetry[13] and Greek religion[14]. During the 1990s, he taught intermittently as a Lecturer in the Classics department at Princeton University.[15] In the fall of 2006 he was named to the Charles Ranlett Flint Chair in Humanities at Bard College, where he currently teaches one course each semester on literary subjects.[16] His academic residencies have included the Richard Holbrooke Distinguished Visitor at the American Academy in Berlin, Germany (2008);[17] Critic-in-Residence at the American Academy in Rome (2010),[18] and Visiting writer at the Ca' Foscari University of Venice (2014). In March, 2019 he will be in residence at the University of Virginia, where he will give the Page-Barbour Lectures.[19]

Major worksEdit

  • An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic (2017), 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., where it was named a Best Book of the Year by National Public Radio, Library Journal, Newsday, Kirkus Reviews, and The Christian Science Monitor, the U.K., where it was shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize, and France, where it won the 2018 Prix Méditerranée.
  • C. P. Cavafy: Collected Poems and C. P. Cavafy: The Unfinished Poems, published simultaneously in March 2009. Mendelsohn's translation of the complete poetry of the Alexandrian Greek poet Constantine Cavafy was a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2009 and was shortlisted for the Criticos Prize (now the London Hellenic Prize). 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.
  • 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, was published to wide acclaim in the US and throughout Europe. After the book's publication in a bestselling French translation, in 2007, film rights were optioned by director Jean-Luc Godard.
  • Gender and the City in Euripides' Political Plays, published by Oxford University Press in 2002[20], was the first scholarly study in fifty years of two lesser-known plays of Euripides, "Children of Heracles" and "Suppliant Women." A paperback edition was published in 2005.
  • The Elusive Embrace: Desire and the Riddle of Identity (Alfred A. Knopf, 1999), a memoir entwining themes of gay identity, family history, and Classical myth and literature, was named a The New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year.

Awards and honorsEdit

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)



  • The Elusive Embrace: Desire and the Riddle of Identity, Alfred A. Knopf, 1999
  • Gender and the City in Euripides' Political Plays, Oxford University Press, 2002
  • 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, Alfred A. Knopf, 2009. Both reedited under one edition C. P. Cavafy: Complete Poems, Alfred A. Knopf, 2012
  • 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
  • The Bad Boy of Athens: Musing on Culture from Sappho to Spider-Man, William Collins, July 2019
  • Ecstasy and Terror: From the Greeks to Game of Thrones, New York Review Books, October 2019[5]
  • How to Read the Classics, William Collins, (forthcoming June 2020)

Essays, reviews and reportingEdit

  • Mendelsohn, Daniel (July 31, 2000). "Saints preserve us". New York Magazine.
  • — (November 7, 2011). "Battle lines : a slimmer, faster Iliad". The Critics: Books. The New Yorker. 87 (35): 76–81.
  • — (April 16, 2012). "Unsinkable : why we can't let go of the Titanic". Popular Chronicles. The New Yorker. 88 (9): 64–72.
  • — (January 7, 2013). "The American boy : a famous author, a young reader, and a life-changing correspondence". Personal History. The New Yorker. 88 (42): 48–61.
  • — (April 14, 2014). "Deep frieze : what does the Parthenon mean?". The Ancient World. The New Yorker. 90 (8): 34–39.
  • — (March 16, 2015). "Girl, interrupted : who was Sappho?". The Critics. A Critic at Large. The New Yorker. 91 (4): 70–77.[30]
  • — (July 27, 2015). "The right poem". The Talk of the Town. Block that Metaphor!. The New Yorker. 91 (21): 18–19.
  • — (April 24, 2017). "A Father's Final Odyssey". Personal History. The New Yorker. 93 (10): 54–65.

See also lists of Mendelsohn's articles at New York Magazine, New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, The Paris Review, Town & Country, Harper's, Travel + Leisure.


  1. ^ https://www.yadvashem.org/articles/interviews/daniel-mendelsohn.html
  2. ^ "Echols Scholars Program Alumni Class of the 1980's | Undergraduate, U.Va". college.as.virginia.edu. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  3. ^ Astri von Arbin Ahlander (2011-06-27). "The Days of Yore". The Days of Yore. 2011-06-27. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  4. ^ "World Languages & Literatures". www.bu.edu. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  5. ^ a b "Ecstasy and Terror". New York Review Books. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  6. ^ "Resistance Genealogy // we got the records, we have the receipts". www.resistancegenealogy.com. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2014/07/01/the-discovery-of-oneself-an-interview-with-daniel-mendelsohn/
  9. ^ "Daniel Mendelsohn". The New York Review of Books. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  10. ^ McGrath, Charles (2012-03-16). "Robert Silvers's Long Reign at The New York Review of Books". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-03-03. Daniel Mendelsohn, a classics scholar with wide interests...is personally close to Mr. Silvers
  11. ^ a b "The New York Review of Books announces new editorial lineup and the creation of the Robert B. Silvers Foundation". The New York Review of Books. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  12. ^ Williams, John (2019-02-25). "New York Review Names 2 Top Editors 5 Months After Ian Buruma's Departure". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  13. ^ Mendelsohn, Daniel (1990). "Empty Nest, Abandoned Cave: Maternal Anxiety in "Achilleid" 1". Classical Antiquity. 9 (2): 295–308. doi:10.2307/25010932. JSTOR 25010932.
  14. ^ Mendelsohn, Daniel (1991). "Συγκεραυνόω: Dithyrambic Language and Dionysiac Cult". The Classical Journal. 87 (2): 105–124. JSTOR 3297967.
  15. ^ "Daniel Mendelsohn | Princeton Hellenic Studies". hellenic.princeton.edu. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  16. ^ "Bard Faculty - Daniel Mendelsohn". Bard Faculty. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  17. ^ "Daniel Mendelsohn". American Academy. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  18. ^ "Member Directory | American Academy in Rome". www.aarome.org. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  19. ^ "Page-Barbour Lectures | Page-Barbour & James W. Richard Lectures , U.Va". page-barbour-richard.virginia.edu. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  20. ^ Gender and the City in Euripides' Political Plays. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press. 2005-03-03. ISBN 9780199278046.
  21. ^ "PRIX MEDITERRANEE | CML prix méditerranée". cml-prix-med (in French). Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  22. ^ "The 2017 Prize Shortlist | London Hellenic Prize". Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  23. ^ "Alumni Association of Princeton University - The James Madison Medal". alumni.princeton.edu. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  24. ^ ZaxOctober 9, Talya; Imag, 2017David Levenson/Getty. "Simon Schama, Daniel Mendelsohn Shortlisted For Baillie Gifford Prize". The Forward. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  25. ^ "Bard College professor Daniel Mendelsohn wins $20,000 writing award". Daily Freeman. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  26. ^ "PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay ($10,000)". PEN America. 2012-10-16. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  27. ^ Relations, Bard Public. "American Academy of Arts and Sciences Elects Bard College Faculty Member Daniel Mendelsohn to 2012 Class". www.bard.edu. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  28. ^ John Williams (January 14, 2012). "National Book Critics Circle Names 2012 Award Finalists". The New York Times. Retrieved January 15, 2013.
  29. ^ "National Jewish Book Award | Book awards | LibraryThing". www.librarything.com. Retrieved 2020-01-18.
  30. ^ Online version is titled "How gay was Sappho?".

External linksEdit