New at Bunim and Bannigan
Dancing On A Powder Keg
Dancing on a Powder Keg
The Story of ‘Wiegala’ Songstress Ilse Weber – In Her Own Words
NEVER-BEFORE-SEEN LETTERS DETAIL A YOUNG MOTHER’S LOVE, SACRIFICE & ARTISTIC LEGACY UNDER THE LENGTHENING SHADOW OF HITLER’S THIRD REICH
Before Hitler’s Third Reich annexed and occupied Czechoslovakia, Ilse Weber was a young wife and working mother of two living in her ancestral town of Vítkovice, known throughout the German-speaking world for her extraordinary songs, theatre pieces, and books for children. A gifted poet, musician, and writer, following the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1939, Ilse and her husband, Willi, were able to get their oldest son, Hanuš, to safety via a ‘Kindertransport’ to London – where Hanuš would be cared for and protected by the daughter of a Swedish diplomat and friend of Ilse’s, Lilian von Löwenadler.
A carefully translated, painstakingly constructed collection of letters exchanged between Ilse and Lilian during the years 1933-44 while the lengthening shadow of the Nazi regime bore down over Europe, Dancing on a Powder Keg – set for release on January 15, 2017 via publisher Bunim & Bannigan, Ltd. – tells a one-of-a-kind, viscerally powerful story of unique friendship, dire historical circumstance, and the courage of a gifted woman in the face of unimaginable evil.
From Ilse’s time in Prague’s Thersienstadt Ghetto (where she worked in the children’s infirmary, entertaining her young patients with songs on her contraband guitar) to her voluntary transportation to Auschwitz (where she and her son, Tommy, were ultimately killed in the gas chambers in 1944), the publication of Dancing on a Powder Keg has only been made possible by discovery of Ilse’s letters in a London attic. The poems were hidden in Thersienstadt, and later retrieved and preserved by Ilse’s husband, Willi, and son, Hanuš, who were reunited in the autumn of 1945.
Yad Vashem – Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust – has endorsed Dancing on a Powder Keg as a singular and incredibly important addition to the canon of Holocaust documents and literature.
“The literature about Theresienstadt and the fate of Czech Jewry during the Holocaust is voluminous, but Ilse Weber's story is unique,” writes Yad Vashem academic advisor and world-renowned Holocaust scholar Prof. Yehuda Bauer. “I have read many accounts, but this account by someone who did not survive, and whose story has been reconstructed, is exceptional.”
As deeply intimate as The Diary of Anne Frank, rich with breathtaking prose as the fiction of Irene Nemirovsky, and historically illuminating as Eric Larson’s In The Garden of Beasts, Dancing on a Powder Keg is an enthralling and evocative window into the life of a brilliant, charismatic, immensely gifted and influential Jewish artist – and a not-to-be-missed arrival to bookstores across the English-language world in 2017.
About the Author:
Ilse Weber (January 11, 1903 – October 6, 1944) née Herlinger, was born in Witkowitz near Mährisch-Ostrau in northern Czechoslovakia. A Jewish poet, she wrote in German, most notably songs and theater pieces for Jewish children. She married Willi Weber in 1930, and from 1933 onward she and her family were persecuted by the Nazis. In 1942, Ilse and her family were deported to the Theresienstadt Ghetto, where Ilse worked with sick children. In 1944, refusing to abandon the children, she voluntarily registered to the transport to Auschwitz with the children of Theresienstadt, where she was killed in the gas chambers, along with her son, Tommy. Her most popular book was Mendel Rosenbusch: Tales for Jewish Children (1929), and her songs – most notably Wiegala – continue to be performed by musicians around the world today.
About the Translator:
Michal Schwartz studied literature and philosophy in Frankfurt and Jerusalem, and received her PhD in German-Jewish philosophy from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. After receiving a Max-Planck scholarship and spending two years of research and teaching in Germany, she moved with her family to Canada, where she completed a Masters in Studies of Law and taught philosophy of law at the University of Toronto. Her book, Metapher und Offenbarung. Zur Sprache von Franz Rosenzweigs Stern der Erlösung, was published in Berlin in 2003. Along academic articles and translations, she has enjoyed exploring and writing on Kabbalah and contemporary culture.
The Same Old Story
The Same Old Story
By Ivan Goncharov
Translated by Stephen Pearl
Stephen Pearl’s new translation of Goncharov’s Obyknovennaya Istoriya, will introduce English speakers to a Russian classic that made its author famous, and which is just as amusing and fascinating as Goncharov’s better known Oblomov, which probably owes its greater fame to the fact that the self-indulgence of the eponymous Oblomov became part of the Russian vocabulary. The same psychological insight that makes Oblomov so compelling permeates The Same Old Story with its contrast between Alexander, a young nobleman fresh from the simplicity of country life, and the older uncle, Pyotr. Readers of whatever age and from very milieu will recognize in themselves Alexander’s unreal ambitions and expectations and the sadder but wiser responses of Uncle Pyotr.
As Nicholas Lezard said, in reviewing this new translation in the British Guardian, Goncharov’s genius lies in his ability to make us root for both: for the young foolish romantic nephew who believes in the “greatness of soul and the imperishability of true love,” and for his uncle, whose ‘job,’ as he sees it, is to ” drive all this rubbish from Alexander’s head.”
By: DAVID HELWIG
Distinguished Canadian author David Helwig’s new novel, Clyde, is about contemporary Canada, a fatherless young man's self-definition in the final decades of the 20th century, when ‘all that is solid melts in air.’ His career threatened by his oldest friend's betrayal, he recalls milestones, often on the golf courses that furthered his successes.
Our Lady Of Steerage
Our Lady Of Steerage
BY: STEVEN MAYOFF
"The present moment is unlike the memory of it. Remembering is not the negative of forgetting. Remembering is a form of forgetting.”
This quote by Milan Kundera sets the tone for the story of 19 year old Mariasse Knyszinski, who, in 1923, has run away from her home in Kraków to be with her cousin, Piotr, in Montreal.
Aboard the S. S. Montmartre she meets a young Jewish couple, Shulim and Betye, who have suffered the loss of their 5 year old son. Betye’s grief is such that she ignores their infant daughter, Dvorah, so Mariasse takes care of her for the duration of the voyage.
The Madonna-like image of Mariasse carrying Dvorah around on the ship inspires the other 3rd class passengers to refer to her as Our Lady of Steerage.
This begins a visceral connection between Mariasse and Dvorah and for the next 40 years they wander in and out of each other’s lives, their relationship weathering both fierce devotion and bitter betrayals.
The non-linear narrative and image-driven prose of Our Lady Of Steerage manifests the novel’s chief themes: the vagaries of memory and the struggle for self-reinvention.
Adult readers who are looking for psychological insight and emotional complexity will be drawn in by Mariasse’s personal journey that takes her from her Catholic upbringing to her eventual conversion to Judaism and ultimate return to Catholicism.
How this full circle mirrors Dvorah’s lifelong struggle with manic-depression illuminates the shadowy divide between the mind and the soul, only to reveal the beating heart that continually brings together and drives apart these two women.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Steven Mayoff was born and raised in Montreal, lived in Toronto for 17 years and has been writing full time in the bucolic splendour of western Prince Edward Island since 2001. His fiction and poetry have appeared in literary journals across Canada and the U.S., as well as in Ireland, France and Algeria.
His story collection, Fatted Calf Blues, won a 2010 PEI Book Award, was short-listed for a 2010 Re-Lit Award and was a Top 5 Finalist for the 2011 CBC Cross-Country Bookshelf (Maritime division). It was praised in the Globe & Mail as showing "a strong imagination at work.”
He has collaborated on short radio plays for CBC and on a stage play, Bully, which was produced at the Theatre Centre in Toronto in 2001. He received a nomination for a Dora Mavor Moore Award as lyricist for the musical, SwingStep, which was staged at the Ford Centre in North York in 1999.
As a librettist he has written a rock musical, Dorian, with composer Ted Dykstra and a short chamber opera, Milk Bar, with composer Jim O’Leary, which was performed as a student production at Mount Allison University in 2014. He is currently working on a full-length opera, Sikutopia, with Greenlandic composer, Arnannguaq Gerstrøm.
He is also completing a poetry collection, Red Planet Postcards, to be published in 2016. Our Lady Of Steerage is his first novel. His web site is www.stevenmayoff.ca
Grumbling Hive Revisited
AUTHOR: BERNARD MANDEVILLE
Bernard Mandeville’s The Grumbling Hive, or Knaves Turn’d Honest, published in 1705, is an exemplary product of a time when bold thinkers questioned verities that had appeared as solid as cathedrals and palaces: divine rights, sacredness, ‘it is because it is’. It was the beginning of the self-centered age we inhabit, overestimation of self and underestimation of everything else, Ostensibly about bees who "lived like men, and all/ Our actions they performed in small" it was really a fable about western European society. The grumbling in The Grumbling Hive was complaints that the trades and commerce that made the ‘bees’ thrive was everywhere infected by knavery, "sharpers, parasites, pimps, players,/Pickpockets, coiners, quacks, soothsayers. . . All trades and places knew some cheat. No calling was without deceit.” With villainy the norm, the fable device enabled Mandeville to precipitously introduce honesty and to show it freezing the wheels of trade; whole professions, lawyers for example, useless when none desired to obtain something for nothing; and locksmiths unemployed in the absence of burglars. These ideas inspired Adam Smith’s conceptions of supply and demand and the increase of wealth and how these were to be understood in the absence of morality. With confidence in the powers of reason it appeared possible to infer laws from observation, unhallowed laws, like gravity in which mathematical predictability substituted for the supernatural. Smith concluded that the Market, subject to the laws of supply and demand, automatically regulated commerce as if with an Invisible Hand.
As he aged through the 20th century, Mandeville, jr. wondered what his ancestor would have thought of an unregulated laissez faire capitalism that countenanced selling packaged worthless mortgages to pension funds and found usury rather than production of goods the principle source of wealth. It occurred to him to start with bees not as living ‘like men,’ but as bees really exist, seeing the Hive as an example of socialism. In this case, the fable would recount not the introduction of Honesty into laissez-faire capitalism; but the introduction of laissez faire into socialism. He would be turning his ancestor’s fable on its head and perhaps, in the process, stimulate a vision that might alleviate the starvation, waste, environmental degradation and hopelessness of the twenty-first century.
Why bees? Mandeville had a broad purpose and writing about bees lent a fabulous character to the enterprise as had La Fontaine with his fables, the fox and the grapes, for example, magnifying and simplifying motives. 1705: this was. The hinge was the preceding century, during which were scrutinized and mocked. Mandeville’s pamphlet of a dozen or so pages was pirated and sold on the streets of London for a ha’penny, probably equal to about $15 today. He issued new editions every few years, adding prose essays explaining in detail the way dishonesty and vice were necessary to prosperity; but they attracted little attention until his greatly expanded two volume, The Fable of the Bees, appeared in 1723. Now, heard loud and clear, Mandeville’s message generated denunciations in pulpits and parliament. To show the utility of vice, much less praise it, was counter the virtue-extolling message of religion; and Mandeville had gone so far as to condemn Charity Schools for the poor on the ground that it reduced the number of candidates available for the ill-paid dirty work on which the economy thrived. The Fable could not, however, be altogether dismissed. Mandeville had traced not only the fruitful manner in which cheating enhanced the circulation of money; but the way luxury and display created wealth. He saw regulations by government as encouraging monopolies and otherwise distorting trade. Leave it alone, Laissez Faire, was Smith’s watchword. (He did concede that in extreme cases the Market could without some regulation cause starvation and distress; but this has been largely ignored by the economic liberals who followed him, culminating in the so-called Chicago School under Milton Friedman.) A classic disciple of Laissez Faire was treasury secretary Andrew W. Mellon who advocated government inaction during 1930-32 when the great Depression created 25% unemployment.
Socialism, of course, with its public ownership of property, is the opposite of Laissez-Faire capitalism. Paradoxically, however, one cannot find that any capitalist country has Laissez Faire engrained in its constitution or laws. When the United States was formed at the end of Mandeville’s century, a large concern of the 1783 constitutional convention was regulating commerce between the thirteen States that, heretofore, had impoverished each other , causing a constant threat of inter-State wars Article 1 section 3, gives Congress authority to "regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the several States and with the Indian Tribes.” Interpretations over the years have extended this power to affairs within individual states, and the creation of numerous bodies regulating communications, utilities, transportation, working conditions, agriculture, and almost every aspect of the economy.
BY: ALVIN RAKOFF
Leonard Abelson is one of seven children. He lives above Abelson’s Hardware on Baldwin Street in Kensington Market in Toronto. It’s the 1930s. Leonard’s father, Sam, a former merchant sailor who speaks fourteen languages, does the purchasing for the store; his mother, Pearl, a Ukranian émigré who was a victim of pogroms and marauding Cossacks after WWI, runs the shop floor.
Leonard wants to be a writer. He witnesses the affections, struggles, and meager hopes of his neighbors—fuel for his imagination. Periodically, Leonard has to look after a young philosophy professor from the University of Toronto, Menasha Rifkin, who suffers from fugue states, squatting among the stalls on Baldwin Street reading Spinoza, Kant, and the Globe & Mail.
Halloween 1936. A band of young Italians invades Baldwin Street in search of blood. Marshall McDonald, the Irish cop who failed to quell the famous "Wop” vs. "Yid” riot at Christie Pits six years earlier, now must investigate the death of Bernie Altman, a young boy whose senseless slaughter lingers over the Jewish community like a bad dream.
In the tradition of James T. Farrell’s Studs Lonigan and Mordecai Richler’s The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, Alvin Rakoff’s Baldwin Street is literary fiction at its best. This powerful novel presents a vivid mosaic of characters, the rich fabric of a community, and a boy’s coming-of-age on the dusty, rough-and-tumble streets of Toronto.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Alvin Rakoff is a film and television director, screen writer, and novelist. Former President of the Directors Guild of Great Britain, he has directed more than a hundred television dramas as well as a dozen feature films. He is the recipient of two International Emmy Awards and three Banff Film Festival awards, including Best Director and Best in Festival. His previous novel & Gillian (Little Brown) has been translated into ten languages. He was born and raised in Canada and is a graduate of the University of Toronto. He lives in London, England.
" Well-written and engaging... foretell[s] the continued intensity of social linkage among Toronto's Jews... Perhaps [their] collective consciousness is founded not only on their common religious identification, but also on the rich lessons of the immigrant experience told in the stories about Baldwin Street and places like it. " - Dr. Morton I. Teicher
" As in works by Isaac Bashevis Singer and Chaim Potok, the novel is much more than a cultural essay, its appeal is as much in universal coming-of-age drama... as in aspects of the immigrant experience. " - Booklist
"With a sure hand... Rakoff presents a parade of colourful portraits... Redolent of the atmosphere of the old market of the prewar era, this package of linked narratives is well made and charming... they make for rewarding reading..." - Canadian Jewish News
"Rakoff captures both the good and the bad that can occur when diverse cultures come together. [It is] full of eclectic characters and situations, and it is a pleasant, easy read." - Jewish Independent
"Calling Alvin Rakoff’s Baldwin Street a novel is a misnomer. Actually it is a series of vignettes, a photograph album filled with snapshots of the people who lived on Baldwin Street in Toronto’s Kensington Market during the Great Depression. Like New York’s Lower East Side, Baldwin Street was home to immigrants, predominantly Jewish, caught in the struggle between assimilating their new home and keeping their traditions alive." - Jewish Book World
"With a sure hand and trademark short sentences that sometimes seem too clipped, Rakoff presents a parade of colourful portraits and vignettes, veering from the unusual to the grotesque. In one well developed and richly painted story, Effie, a Yiddish-speaking black woman, becomes a trusted accountant for a Jewish businessman. In another, Murray Millstein, who lives on Augusta Avenue, is deeply affected by the loss of his wife and starts going to market dressed in her clothing. The Verys focuses on Melvyn and Goldie Rabinowitz, a mismatched husband and wife (respectively very small and very big) who come to Leonard by this time of college age, for advice.
Redolent of the atmosphere of the old market of the prewar era, this package of linked narratives is well made and charming. Although collectively these stories lack sufficient unity to be considered a novel, they make for rewarding reading just the same." - Bill Gladstone, Canadian Jewish News