This is Vox Tablet, the weekly podcast of Tablet Magazine, the online Jewish arts and culture magazine that used to be known as Nextbook.org. Our archive of podcasts is available on our site, tablet2015.wpengine.com. Vox Tablet, hosted by Sara Ivry, varies widely in subject matter and sound -- one week it's a conversation with novelist Michael Chabon, theater critic Alisa Solomon, or anthropologist Ruth Behar. Another week brings the listener to "the etrog man" hocking his wares at a fruit-juice stand in a Jersualem market. Or into the hotel room with poet and rock musician David Berman an hour before he and his band, Silver Jews, head over to their next gig. Recent guests include Alex Ross, Shalom Auslander, Aline K. Crumb, Howard Jacobson, and the late Norman Mailer.
During his political career, Léon Blum—who served three short terms as French prime minister between 1936 and 1947—was derided by his detractors as “a woman,” a “weak Jew,” and even a traitor. Meanwhile, he was worshiped by many French workers, grateful to him for introducing the 40-hour work week, vacation time, and other legislation from his Socialist agenda. According to sociologist Pierre Birnbaum, author of the new biography Léon Blum: Prime Minister, Socialist, Zionist, none of these characterizations captures the complexity of this under-appreciated figure.
In an interview with Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry, Birnbaum describes Blum as a remarkably brave, intelligent, and unflappable leader, an early Zionist, a prescient anti-Communist, and proud Jew.