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biography
Judaica
They Called Me Mayer July: Painted Memories of a Jewish Childhood in Poland Before the Holocaust
 
 
Author
Mayer Kirshenblatt & Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett.
Publisher California  
Format hardcover
Product Dimensions 9.75 x 8.25 x 1.6 inches
ISBN 9780520249615
Pages/Publication Date 411/2007
Daedalus Item Code 24088
This item is not available.
Description
Personal, mirthful, and engagingly candid, this extraordinary work is a remarkable record of Jewish life in a Polish town before World War II—a unique blend of memoir, oral history, and artistic interpretation. Mayer Kirshenblatt, who was born in Apt in 1916 and emigrated to Canada in 1934, finally taught himself to paint at age 73. Since then he has made it his mission to remember the world of his childhood in living color, "lest future generations know more about how Jews died than how they lived." This volume presents his lively paintings together with a delightful narrative created from interviews that took place over 40 years between Mayer and his daughter, together drawing readers into a lost but not yet forgotten world. Here we meet the pregnant hunchback, who stood under the wedding canopy just hours before giving birth; the khayder teacher caught in bed with the drummer's wife; the cobbler's son, who dressed in white pajamas all his life to fool the angel of death; the corpse that was shaved; and the couple who held a "black wedding" in the cemetery during a cholera epidemic. This moving collaboration——is at once a labor of love, a tribute to a distinctive imagination, and a brilliant portrait of life in one Jewish home town.

"Memoirs have become a vital genre in Holocaust studies, and while all are important, the uniqueness of some makes them especially important. Mayer Kirshenblatt grew up in the small Polish town of Apt, a center of rabbinical culture, and in 1934 emigrated to Canada. When he was in his mid-70s his wife and daughter urged him to paint a visual record of the everyday life of his youth. Kirshenblatt's paintings are amazing—a cross between a childlike realism and the embroidered fantasy of memory; they convey a sense of boyhood innocence tinged with grief. The subjects range from people shopping in town stores and chopping wood to celebrations like weddings and the festival of Succoth. Kirshenblatt has an eye for quirky visual and social detail, as in his picture The Kleptomaniac Slipping a Fish Down Her Bosom. These exactingly reproduced paintings are enhanced by Kirshenblatt's equally fresh memoirs, transmitted to his daughter, Barbara (co-editor of The Art of Being Jewish in Modern Times): from jokes that emanated from the women's mikve, or ritual bath, to the mechanics of the local laundry. This collection of pre-Holocaust memories will be a lasting contribution to our understanding of Eastern European Jewish life and culture before its destruction."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

 
 
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