Aesthetics versus Bestiality – In “Isidore”, Shelley Kupferberg tells of the splendor and misery of her great-grandfather: Literaturkritik.de

In Isidore, Shelley Kupferberg recounts the splendor and misery of her grandson

Written by Anne Amend Suching

Book review / references

Shelley Kupferberg, journalist and presenter, with us Isidore She published her first long prose work, thus providing the results of an extensive antiquities search for her Viennese descendants and his Jewish family.

“Call me Isidor” – this is the motto of the young man from the shtetl in Tlumacz in eastern Galicia for the first time in Vienna. Like two of his five brothers, he changed his name when he began studying law in the Danube Kingdom in 1908. Israel becomes Isidore, Robin becomes Rudolph and Fiji becomes Francesca.

Isidor not only wants to learn and study, but it is important for him to create something and “become something”. It is based on a rigorous curriculum that not only includes successfully completing his exams and obtaining a doctorate for Dr. Gore, but includes regular visits to the theater and cafes. While studying he also worked as a secretary in a leather wholesaler. During World War I, he did not shy away from black market deals. He buys securities on a large scale, which makes him a millionaire after the war.

After the collapse of his second marriage, Isidore moved to the City Palace, and was in a relationship with Hungarian singer Ilona Hajmasi for a number of years, until she decided to go with Hollywood. During these years he reached the peak of his career and famous banquets. Every Sunday, his nephew Walter, Shelley Kupferberg’s grandfather, visits him for lunch, where he has to “perform” by doing arithmetic and reciting poems.

Isidore, a business consultant, follows the spread of National Socialist ideas, but still feels safe when the Nazis invade Vienna. Two days before the “Annexation of Austria”, on March 13, 1938, Gestapo officials arrested him. He is forced to sign his fortune to the new rulers. After three months in prison he was released as a human wreck. He died on November 17, 1938 at the age of 52. By this time his nephew Walter had already immigrated to Palestine.

Shelley Kupferberg tells the story of her grandson’s life in episodes, neither linear nor discontinuous. After two introductory chapters, briefly characterizing Isidore and glimpsing his grandfather’s trip to Vienna in 1956, the actual construction of a wonderful indoor family memorial building begins, in which the passage of time is reflected very authentically.

Isidore It is not a novel, but could be described as a fictional “bio-fiction”, although the term has rarely been created in German until now. This focuses on the protagonist, but also extends to short portraits of some family members: Walter and his parents, especially his mother Francesca, alongside David, Isidore’s deeply paranoid brother. There is also Isidore’s second wife, Berta Singer, Ilona Hajmasi and her ex-husband’s family history. All descriptions are peppered with insightful quotes from contemporary documents.

Against this background, the narrative voice oscillates between straightforward biographical, neutral, or slightly personal perspective, moderately colored. From this cleverly arranged mixture emerges a thrilling narrative flow that must have been unparalleled in fiction for a long time. Shelley Kupferberg provides a first-person report on her activities and readings on Isidore. In most chapters a somewhat descriptive tone prevails at first, before in many places this increases into an experienced kind of utterance, so that a personal perspective of events emerges from the series of pleasant neutral-formative words, and from the inner view of the character has the upper hand . Alternating or partial transitions from one sound to another that occur without a trace ensure immersion in a world so fascinating and magical and make the sudden collapse of this universe seem even more terrible.

With Kupferberg, historical accuracy goes hand in hand with emotional intensity. Evoking an enchanting era and in the same way in portraying its energetic antithesis, original diagrams of the situation and shots that dig deeply into your memory as you read them emerge. The situation in Vienna diverts itself from a place of longing to an apocalyptic scenario.

When writing, orienting oneself closely to reality often means emotional distancing when communicating—as in Whitney Scharer’s excellently documented autobiography of a novel about Lee Miller (Eng. light time 2019). Karl Ove Knausgard’s monumental, self-fictional works could be placed in the same category, although the differences in reception are likely to be significant. It’s different with Kupferberg: she engages her readers and finds the perfect balance between distance and proximity, neutrality and emotion.

Far from any comic streak, the author achieves her own atmosphere, a coherent and subtle tone, highlighting a number of culturally and historically significant themes prior to the depiction of the crimes of National Socialism: Jewish life, social progress, spirituality, and Vienna as the capital of the arts.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, tensions ran high in Judaism. With traditional, orthodox and Hasidic faith, efforts to reform compete or loudly IsidoreThe great idea of ​​a modern, socially integrated European Jewry. The protagonist’s credo is that “with an accent-free German and a strong education in baggage […] Something can become.” As a master of the Enlightenment, he believed in the metaphor of the light of reason and the triumph of reason and the education that underpins his social progress. In this way, things run at a speed that is “daunting” professionally for him. He identifies himself as a “liberated and integrated Jew” and has A talent for winning people.” Despite his strong intellectual and social skills, his private life is disastrous.

After the failure of his marriage, Isidore lives any passion in art. In his relationship with his second wife and later with his mistress, this field, especially everything musical, is central. Life without opera is “unimaginable” for him. When he sits in his trunk, his eyes are flooded with tears. While this sentimental style of reception originated directly from the second half of the eighteenth century, its outward appearance can be taken from Charles Baudelaire and Jules Barbie Dorville’s “Dandy Manuals” or “Bible of Decadence”, recovery or. Riptide (1884)And the by Joris-Karl Huysmans. Emotion and emotion either do not appear in these concepts or, as with Isidor, are kept secret. Everything that is general consists of portraying oneself, realizing “l’art de la mise et du bon ton”, transforming oneself into a work of art with certain pieces of clothing and accessories, and moving confidently on the social stage. Two examples: Isidore has a suit and handkerchief designed to match his beloved opera costume. He owns a heavy set of engraved silver cutlery for 24 people, which are used for his social banquets. At least this could save Francesca for Palestine.

Isidore is not shy about battles of words on the subject of art. After a lecture on the art of singing, the discussion turns into the “War of Singers”, and grows into “Batayli Dharnani”, in which Isidore forgets to be polite and is later sentenced to a fine. Art, as Isidore primarily understands it as aesthetically and aesthetically driven creativity, contrasts with almost vulgar art, Portrayed by Ilona Hajmasi in Hollywood.

Isidore can live in all aspects of his character, the whole mixture of epigonism and objectivity in Vienna. The whole city is a theater “in which big things are reflected in small things”, “a theater with an infectious desire to perform”. Gustav Klimt and his group of artists, Gustav Mahler, Arnold Schönberg and Hugo von Hoffmannstall live and work in Vienna, Sigmund Freud practiced there. Diversity prevails in this reservoir of the most diverse currents in the history of ideas, the synchronicity of what is in fact asynchronous, which rests on two competing theoretical foundations: in modern art, life is exaggerated to become art and adapted to life. Art is aesthetic and realistic, frankly: art and life merge into a complete work of art. in Isidore With the protagonist and his diverse activities, a broad snapshot of all these trends is revealed.

The National Socialists, with their daily brutality, blew up everything that is aesthetic and aesthetic, and in all cases all humanity. What is often forgotten in the face of the shocking official statistics of genocide, that is, all the crude daily racial excesses of Nazi adherents, Shelley Kupferberg depicted in a uniquely poignant way. The effect must transcend both high-quality and literary high-quality, erotic and erotic, horrific fantasies. The author puts the indescribable into words, where this paradox is real and requires an open space for reception. In addition, she speaks of the public insults to which Jews are subjected, sometimes cursively, for example the “friction parties” in which Isidore Schneider, Kurt Goldfarb must participate: in order to remove the pro-Austrian slogans, people are pushed onto the sidewalk. This procedure increases the efficiency of what is described.

Isidore’s imprisonment underscores the extent of the Nazis’ brutality. Peak ata comes from grandfather’s memory: Walter can’t help but avoid being asked to eat human “shit” because he recognizes a classmate in elementary school and asks him to let him go.

In her lavish bio-fiction, Shelley Kupferberg manages the balance between Parnassus and Orcus. She paints a very meaningful and moving picture of her grandson and the people around him. Isidore will never be forgotten – as a brilliant lover of art, and as a highly intelligent and socially competent parent, he was driven to fear and disease and devastated by the Nazis with their unbelievable atrocities. The highly emotional painting becomes dynamic while reading, inviting to experience, and thus becomes an invaluable part of the culture of remembrance.



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