Convergences: Biguenet’s “I Am Not a Jew,” “Mishpocha,” and Arnost Lustig

On February 27, a few hours after I learned of the passing of Arnost Lustig, I listened to a Selected Shorts broadcast featuring John Biguenet’s story, “I Am Not a Jew.” As the series describes it, this is a story “in which a frightened tourist has a failure of nerve that resonates deeply. SHORTS literary commentator Hannah Tinti notes: ‘What makes ‘I Am Not a Jew’ so disturbing is how it dissects the ways we collectively excuse ourselves from standing up for what’s right.'”

It didn’t take long for me to discern that the situation that the tourist faces in Biguenet’s story shares some similarities with an episode described in “Mishpocha,” the closing story in my collection, Quiet Americans. Even before I wrote the story, the episode troubled me enough that I mentioned it in a workshop led by Arnost Lustig. I wrote about this during my January “virtual tour” for Quiet Americans. Since last Sunday, Biguenet’s story–combined with Arnost’s passing–has me thinking about it all over again.

Notes from Around the Web: Jewish Literary Links for Shabbat

  • The Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL) is digitizing its publications (AJL News & AJL Reviews), and the new issues in the new format are available online for all to enjoy (look to the sidebar on the right-hand side of the screen).
  • Margot Singer has an essay, “A Natural History of Small-Town Ohio,” in the new issue of Ninth Letter (my copy is on its way). In this interview, she discusses the essay–including the role that religion plays in it.
  • Thank you, Umberto Eco. (And thanks to Natasha Solomons, whose Twitter feed led me to Monica Ali‘s link to the Haaretz article.)
  • The new issue of features stories by Orly Castel-Bloom (translated by Dalya Bilu), Peter Orner, Racelle Rosett, and several others.
  • I continue to build this tribute page to Arnost Lustig (1926-2011).
  • Shabbat shalom!

    Arnost Lustig (1926-2011)

    Over the weekend came the sad news that Arnost Lustig had passed away. Although the links I’ve begun to collect here can give you a few points of knowledge about him, it’s not possible for me to transmit his vitality and extraordinarily sunny outlook here. I wish I had that talent.

    I will try to update this page regularly as an ongoing tribute to Arnost.

  • Obituary from the Western Michigan University English Department. For many years, Arnost taught in WMU’s Prague Summer Program. That is where I had the great privilege to meet him in 2004, when I attended PSP and enrolled in Arnost’s fiction class, an experience I alluded to just last month.
  • “We all will miss the personality of his talent and his personal and artistic qualities,” said Czech president Vaclav Klaus (quoted in the Prague Daily Monitor).
  • “Hundreds of People Commemorate Late Czech Jewish Writer Lustig”.
  • Square Books of Oxford, Miss., recalls Arnost’s work and “a memorable reading” that he gave at its former site in 1996.
  • Author Leslie Pietrzyk recalls one of her first writing teachers: Arnost Lustig.
  • Former student Ben Krull remembers Arnost–and his extraordinary optimism–for The Jewish Week.
  • Tim Chilcote, Arnost’s former student and teaching assistant, shares his reflections. (more…)
  • Notes from Around the Web: Jewish Literary Links for Shabbat

    Just a few literary links to share with you:

    • Publishers Weekly provides an overview of the Jerusalem International Book Fair. (See also my Monday post.)
    • Sweet essay on Tablet about one American student’s experience studying in Israel at the same time as Natalie Portman.
    • Speaking of Tablet, look who’s talking about Quiet Americans this week!
    • From The Jewish Week: A fascinating article by Miriam Intrator on the postwar fate of “Europe’s salvaged Jewish libraries.” And an equally superb piece by Paul Zakrzewski examines the current state of Jewish memoirs.
    • Next week will be a challenging one for our friend, Jewish Muse. Here’s why.
    • The next Jewish Book Council Twitter Book Club, featuring author Andrew Winer and his novel, The Marriage Artist, is scheduled for Wednesday, March 2. Details here.

    Shabbat shalom!

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