It’s no secret that I have a special interest in how members of the so-called “third generation” have responded to their family Holocaust histories. And that interest motivated me to attend an event here in New York City last week: a screening of Evan Kleinman’s documentary, “We Are Still Here.” Held at the Museum of Tolerance (which I was visiting for the first time), the screening was co-sponsored by the Museum and The Blue Card Fund‘s Young Leadership Division.
The film introduces us to Evan’s family, including his Polish-born paternal grandparents. It documents a journey to Poland undertaken by Evan, his parents, and his sister. The audience at our screening was especially privileged to have all of these Kleinmans (and others!) in attendance last week.
I was reminded, yet again, that every time you may think you’ve heard all of the “Holocaust stories” there are to tell, you’re proven wrong. And there’s something truly remarkable when it’s those who “are still here” who do the storytelling.
The next screening of “We Are Still Here” will take place in Boston on August 23rd. If you have the opportunity to attend, seize it.
Confession: I frequently read, admire, and link to Israeli author Etgar Keret’s nonfiction/essays (particularly his columns for Tablet), but I haven’t always been as comfortable with Keret’s fiction. I read The Nimrod Flipout when its U.S. publisher sent me a review copy of the English translation several years back (2006), and although I understood what the fuss was about–Keret is one prodigiously talented, not to mention prolific writer–my own reading tastes just don’t hunger for the sheer strangeness–call it experimentalism, fabulism, magical realism, whatever–that seemed to characterize the collection.
Moreover, back then–around the time of the Second Lebanon War–my nascent interest in attempting to understand contemporary Israel through its literature was intensifying. There was so much about Israel that I, a Diaspora Jew, needed to learn (this remains all too true six years later). Keret’s fables and flash fictions didn’t seem to engage with the seriousness of what the Israelis call hamatzav– “the situation,” namely, the pervasive conflict that suffuses life in their country. It occurred to me only hazily (if at all) that this was a selfish indulgence of my Diaspora self; living within “the situation,” Keret could certainly be excused from spending still more time with it in his fiction.
But last week, a review-essay on The Millions caught my eye. Titled “The Maturation of Etgar Keret” and written by Bezalel Stern, it captivated me. And it sent me hurrying to add two new volumes to my bookshelf: Suddenly, A Knock on the Door (Keret’s latest book to be released in English, with translations by Nathan Englander, Miriam Shlesinger, and Sondra Silverston) and Four Stories, a slim collection I’ll address in greater detail shortly. Continue reading ›