March 20, 2012
A new Haggadah from two fiction writers
by Nick Davies
With Passover approaching next month, it’s time for Jewish families to get out the Haggadah, the text that outlines the progression of the seder. There are countless versions of the book, ranging from beautiful illuminated editions from the Middle Ages to pamphlets published by Maxwell House beginning in 1932. Translated into languages for use around the world, the Haggadah is also available in variations for children, vegetarians, gay people, and more. And as of this year, there’s a new edition to add to the list.
The New American Haggadah, published this month, comes from two authors best known for their fiction–Nathan Englander translated the text from Hebrew, and Jonathan Safran Foer edited the work. Initially planning to include analysis from some thirty big-name artists and writers, Foer ultimately decided on a more minimalist approach, including only four essays, without bylines, so as not to call attention away from the text itself. The design of the New American Haggadah (by Oded Ezer) is stripped down as well, emphasizing Hebrew typography rather than storybook illustrations of the Exodus story.
Haggadah through the ages:
Bird’s Head Haggadah
The earliest known Haggadah, now in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem
This page dates back to the 14th Century.
A Haggadah for a vegetarian seder
Maxwell House’s Haggadah
Maxwell House has published a pamphlet-style Haggadah since 1932.
A children’s Haggadah published in 2000.
New American Haggadah
Pages from the interior of the New American Haggadah
Nick Davies was a publicist at Melville House.