Michael Bernstein

Obituary
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Photo Michael Andr Bernstein On May 25, 2011, after a heroic battle against a rare and aggressive cancer, renowned scholar and novelist Michael Andr Bernstein, age 63, Professor of English and Comparative Literature at UC Berkeley, died peacefully at his home in Oakland, California, surrounded by his family. Born in Innsbruck Austria on August 31, 1947 and raised between Europe, Canada and the United States, Michael was a multilingual intellectual whose endeavors as a professor and as a writer of poetry, fiction, and criticism manifest a unique ability to synthesize the subjects about which he was so broadly learned: history, literature, art and politics. He published widely in the United States and abroad, and was honored repeatedly for his exceptional contributions to the world of letters. Among the many prestigious awards conferred on him were the Koret Israel Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship and election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was a regular contributor to The New Republic, The Times Literary Supplement, and The LA Times Sunday Book Review. He published a volume of poetry, Prima della Rivoluzione, in 1984. His prolific contributions to literary criticism include The Tale of the Tribe: Ezra Pound and the Modern Verse Epic, Bitter Carnival: Ressentiment and the Abject Hero, Foregone Conclusions: Against Apocalyptic History, Five Portraits: Modernism and the Imagination in Twentieth-Century German Writing. Bernstein's novel, Conspirators, was selected as one of the three finalists for the 2004 Reform Jewish Prize for fiction, was named one of the 25 best novels of the year by the Los Angeles Times, and was shortlisted for the 2004 Commonwealth Writers' Prize. He was working on a new novel at the time of his death. As a teacher he was beloved for his course in which, year after year, he taught the entirety of Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust. He was a magnetic lecturer whose humanity and humor informed his analyses of authors such as James Joyce, Robert Musil, Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens and Gustave Flaubert. He had a gift for bringing to bear his staggering breadth of knowledge without pretension or jargon. In his private life Michael was a loyal friend, always offering the benefit of his full attention and generous imagination in conversations both in person and on the page, ready to engage wholeheartedly with the intellectual and artistic productivity of those he cherished. His competitive spirit found its way happily, weekly, onto the tennis courts of Berkeley. He was a devoted and proud father to his three daughters: Anna-Nora Bernstein, from his first marriage to Jeanne Wolff Bernstein, and Amitai and Oriane Sachs-Bernstein, from his marriage to Dalya Sachs-Bernstein, his widow, who survives him in sorrow. He is pre-deceased by his father John Bernstein, and his grandmother Dina Bernstein. His Toronto family includes step-mother Dr. Vera Rose-Bernstein; brother David; sister Suzanne; sister-in-law Susan; nieces and Alysha and Laura, and Emily nephew Brendan. He is also survived by loving family in California: his devoted in-laws Michael and Vivian Sachs of San Rafael, and his sister--in-law and brother-in-law Naomi and Ori Sachs-Amrami, and nephews Jordan, Daniel and Benjamin. An endowed memorial fund for graduate study in modern literature at UC Berkeley will be established in his name.
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Published in San Francisco Chronicle from May 28 to May 29, 2011
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