Mashup: Yiddishland and 4000 unique covers

By Jo Phillips

Revolutionary Yiddishland – A History of Jewish Radicalism by Alan Brossat and Sylvie Klingberg will be out on the 8th of November 2016: a book covering the history of the revolutionary Jewish tradition. Why Yiddishalnd?  The name of the book derives for those unaware from the language of Yiddish spoken in the Ghettos of Europe by  Ashkenazi Jewish communities.  Starting out in the 9th century, it was a mash up of  Hebrew Aramaic and slavic.  It has entered the general continuousness  impacted mainly via American comedy using it almost as slang yet has become part of parcel of many peoples need for a word or phrase that just cant be expressed any other way. The term Yiddish is also used in the adjectival sense, synonymously with Jewish, to designate attributes of Ashkenazi culture, like food or music and theatre.  The book therefore gives an insight not into just a movement but about a way of life long gone, but thankfully not forgotten.

Jewish radicals were to be found at the barricades on the avenues of Petrograd and the alleys of the Warsaw ghetto; they ensconced at the core of those resisting Franco and the Nazis. They originated in Yiddishland, a vast expanse of Eastern Europe that, before the Holocaust, ran from the Baltic Sea to the western edge of Russia and incorporated hundreds of Jewish communities with a combined population of some 11 million people. Within this territory, revolutionaries arose from the Jewish misery of Eastern and Central Europe the anti-semmetism and the pogroms; they were raised in the fear of God and taught to respect religious tradition, but were caught up in the great current of revolutionary utopian thinking. Socialists, Communists, Bundists, Zionists, Trotskyists, manual workers and intellectuals, they embodied the multifarious activity and radicalism of a Jewish working class that glimpsed the Messiah in the folds of the red flag.

Today, the world from which they came has disappeared, dismantled and destroyed mainly due to the Nazi genocide. After this irremediable break, there remain only survivors, and the work of memory for red Yiddishland. This book traces the struggles of these militants, their singular trajectories, their oscillation between great hope and doubt, their lost illusions—a red and Jewish gaze on the history of the twentieth century.

Clive Bloom from “Times Higher Education” says that “there is hope for the spirit and aims behind the stories this book tells” and Brian Klug, author of Being Jewish and Doing Justice, calls the book a “fascinating window onto a lost world” and says that it is an “essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the complex relationship between the Jewish left, the general left, and Zionism”. Additionally, Shlomo Sand, author of The Invention of the Jewish People, likes about the book that “in there live is given priority to death, and the struggles of so many in the Yiddishland allow us to see past the catastrophes”. Lastly, Sai Englert from “Salvage” thinks that this book has an immense impact and that it radically expands ones political horizons.

Ultimately without such radicals playwrights like Arnold Wesker with his Chicken with Barley Soup (part of a trilogy) would not exist.  This play picks up almost where the revolutionaries left off. The play is about a Jewish family living in 1936 in London, and traces the downfall of their ideals in a changing world. They are family are communists and Wesker explores how they struggle to maintain their convictions in the face of the changing political european  climate.





Another book that presents new ideas and differs from other books is an art book with 4000 unique covers and a special design concept. French artist Henri Barande will have his first UK exhibition in the Saatchi Gallery in London this October. Alongside this, art book publishers Booth Clibborn, who also publish Charles Saatchi’s art books, are bringing out a book on the artist. They have chosen a new design concept where every single book has a different and unique jacket. 4000 books are printed and each one shows a different design from one of Henri Barande’s art works on the covers. The publishers of the book asked Christoph Stolberg, Creative Director of the German design firm Schultzschult, to come up with design ideas and concepts for their new book. The designer of the book, Christoph, visited the studio of Barande near Lausanne, where he was struck by the presentation of the canvases in tightly hung sequences. Furthermore, they created an algorithm enabling a random combination of images because they thought that a single cover illustration would misrepresent Barande’s aesthetic. Additionally, Christoph also designed a new font for the book which includes several cuts that create a greater sharpness. The artist’s work is inspired by the play with resolution and distance and dynamic experiences and this is what the designers tried to capture with their special book designs.






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