Discovering America

This is the cover of my collection of short stories "Discovering America" (2009)

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The first story in this collection of short stories is entitled “Discovering America,”
because I arrived in Boston on Columbus Day, 1966. As such it represents a brief
continuation of my story, told in my autobiographical novel “Amanuensis.”

There is no common theme to these stories, they include events that take place in
America and Israel and in places as far apart as India and Norway. They include
stories of sex and devotion, of love and anger. Their only common factor is that they
sprang, often uninvited, from my brain (see examples below).


This is the cover of my collection of long stories (novellas) "Trove" (2009)

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or go to and search for "Trove Jack Cohen"

The format of the novella, the long short story or the short novel, has been largely forgotten in modern times. The length of novels seems to have grown with time, maybe because that is the best way to make more money. But, fewer and fewer people are actually reading, rather than logging on and internet surfing.

My theory is that to get people to read one must shorten the format and reduce the content in order to keep pace with the reduced attention span that people have nowadays. Either literature connects with the audience or it will go the way of the dodo and the plastic record. Here are some modest examples of novellas, if you think they should be expanded, you can do so yourself.


Through the years I wrote many stories and some of them were quite different in subject matter, not all of them of direct Jewish interest. So I published some of them in my collections “Discovering America” and “Trove.” I will describe some of them here as examples and explain how I came to write some of them.

Discovering America:
In the information sent to me by Harvard University there was a list of dates of national holidays that I should not arrive on because everything would be closed. So I carefully avoided them and arrived on a convenient day in November. The taxi dropped me at the offices of Harvard Univ. in Cambridge and I was shocked to find them – closed! It turned out to be Columbus Day that was a State Holiday in Mass. I stood in the dark arcade where all the shops were closed and heard some music and talking, that turned out to be the radio station of HU. They sent me to the International Center nearby and there I found a bed. Then as I was undressing a young woman came in and asked me if I’d like to go to a concert with her…..

Bjorn and Julie:
This story is based on an interview I did with the first scientist to describe the structure of DNA as a helix, although a single stranded helix. His name was Sven Furberg, and he went to London in 1947, just after WWII, to do a doctorate with the famous physicist J.D. Bernal. In his interview, conducted in Stockholm University he described his experiences during the war as an underground radio operator, when he had to ski high up in the mountains so as not to be caught by the Germans. He also mentioned that he had enjoyed talking to one particular female contact, and that was why he was so eager to go to London. It gave me the idea for this story.

The Grand Tour:
This is the true story of how I organized a trip by mini-bus from Cambridge to Israel in 1963 for 10 people. Because of problems that arose, after touring Israel we got to Yugoslavia and then ran out of money. Then I became ill and collapsed in Salzburg and spent several days in the hospital, not a very pleasant outcome.

This is based on a true story that one of my best friends told me about how at the age of about 10 he had bad asthma and was sent to a convalescent home in Switzerland. The nurses were German and tended to be very officious and somewhat anti-Semitic. There was a ward of children who had survived the Holocaust and he fell in love with a young girl and asked his parents to adopt her. They told him that they would, but then they took him home, and later they told him that she had died.

The Party:
This is a true and somewhat tragic story of an Israeli couple; the husband came to work with me as a postdoc in the US. We noticed that his wife was often rude to him, even in public , and we wondered at that. Eventually she had a baby and the story starts with her ringing our doorbell late one evening and inviting us to a surprise party.

I noticed them walking around the campus delivering mail. She was a beautiful young woman and he was a tragically crippled young man, It was an effort for him to walk with irons on his legs. I imagined a relationship between them and so I wrote this story….

The Binding:
When I was a child my father told me about a murder that had occurred in the East End of London, when a yeshiva student murdered a young Christian girl. He also mentioned that the detective was Irish and it was his intervention that prevented an anti-Semitic backlash. I used this as a basis for this story….

It is an incredible fact that not one piece of writing of Shakespeare of any of his plays has ever been found. I used this as a basis to imagine the finding of a trove of old manuscripts in a library, and the setting I used was Milton Abbey, a beautiful rural place where I was evacuated as a boy during WWII.

The King of America:
Frederick Calvert, Lord Baltimore died only six years before the Declaration of Independence of the USA in 1776 at the age of 40. At the time he was the most senior aristocrat in the American colonies, and was the owner of the Maryland Colony that was soon to become the State of Maryland. His death was very convenient for the republicans because there was a group of monarchists who wanted to rid themselves of the British King, but to appoint an American King in his place. Also fortunately for the republicans, Lord Baltimore had no heir, but did he?....

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