When Agata Tuszynska, a Polish historian and bestselling author, began reading the novels and short stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer, she found in them not just literary characters and plots, but fascinating details of the missing world of Polish Jews, a world permanently erased by the Holocaust and the subsequent fory-five years of Communist rule. Singer, the only writer working in Yiddish to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature, was an avid chronicler of that once rich and vibrant culture. So, surrounded by silent menentos of that lost world, an overgrown cemetery full of broken tombstones, a cinema in an ancient synagogue, Tuszynska decided to re-create it from the memories of its dispersed and aged inhabitians. Her travels took her to small Polish towns, once resonant with the voices of Singer's heroes and now empty of any Jewish presence, to the cafes of Tel Aviv and the Jewish neighborhoods of New York. But her real journey took her deep into the memories of Singer's colleagues and co-workers, of Holocaust survivors and those who were merely witnesses. Tuszynka's search produces a series of emotional and cathartic encounters. Speaking with Jews and Poles alike, she patiently removes layers of pain and trauma, examining personal, tragic, and often purposely forgotten experiences. From these, she weaves a broad and tangled tapestry of lives lived side by side, and of collective yet vastly different memories of a tragically intertwined past. A book of both the past and the present, Lost Landscapes offers a moving, enlightening vision of two cultures sharing a complex coexistence within a common land.
by Agata Tuszynska
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