The Last of the Just

First english edition (publ. Atheneum)

The Last of the Just is a post-war novel by André Schwarz-Bart originally published in French (as Le Dernier des justes) in 1959. It was published in an English translation by Stephen Becker in 1960. It was Schwarz-Bart's first book and won the Prix de Goncourt, France's highest literary prize.[1] The author was the son of a Polish Jewish family murdered by the Nazis and he based the story on a Hebrew legend.[2]

The story follows the "Just Men" of the Levy family over eight centuries. Each Just Man is a Lamed Vav, one of the thirty-six righteous souls whose existence justifies the purpose of humankind to God.[3] Each "bear the world's pains... beginning with the execution of an ancestor in 12th-century York, England... culminat[ing] in the story of a schoolboy, Ernie, the last... executed at Auschwitz."[4] It has been described as an enduring classic that reminds "how easily torn is the precious fabric of civilization, and how destructive are the consequences of dumb hatred-whether a society's henchmen are permitted to beat an Ernie Levy because he's Jewish, or because he's black or gay or Hispanic or homeless."[5]

Gilbert Highet, a Book-of-the-Month Club judge called it, "the saddest novel I have ever read, almost as sad as history."[6]


  1. January 22, 1961 St. Petersburg Times
  2. R.Z. Sheppard Books: Out of Africa February 05, 1973 Time
  3. Legend of the Thirty Six
  4. William Stevenson FIVE BEST Secret Agent Espionage is a secretive business, but these classics are the best spy stories ever told. Saturday, December 9, 2006 Wall Street Journal
  5. MICHAEL DORRIS Trust Me On This Remembering a Book of Remembering September 15, 1991 page 2 Book Review Los Angeles Times
  6. Silverman, Al (2008). The Time of Their Lives: The Golden Age of Great American Book Publishers, Their Editors, and Authors. Truman Talley. p. 6. ISBN 978-0312-35003-1.
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