Why literature can bridge divides…

Whilst working on a recent contract (the appraisal, and proofreading of – a wonderful manuscript compiled by the grand-daughter of a Polish Jew, who maintained an astonishing sense of humor in the face of severe adversity, particularly during the Russo-Japanese war of 1904) – it’s occurred to me that, regardless of religious background, or participation in war in a military capacity, and the great divide of nations, so many of us share the commonality of having been raised, through, and beyond, poverty and hardship. Many of us either are able to remember our grandparents who lived during the early 1900’s, or, perhaps if not remember them personally (or even getting the chance to meet them), are at least familiar with their (and therefore our own) history. Often this equates to hearing the stories through your parents, or uncles, or aunties. Sometimes, we’ve been lucky enough to hear them directly for ourselves from the source. Sometimes, it is actually the hardship of our own parents that is more pronounced, simply through being able to hear it discussed first hand.

This is why the art of Biography, Memoir, Autobiography and Creative Non-Fiction is so important. In general (at least in Western Society), the habit of verbal story telling, the Bard, the folk-tales around the fire, which was once so important – and in fact, the only means of passing on the history of a family or clan, or tribe – is now a dying art.

In those early twentieth century days – modern medicine had only just begun to achieve great results. Tuberculosis was still rife. My three year old aunty died of it, my grandfather died when my father was only four years old. My father and uncle themselves, were also threatened by TB.

As with other families, world over, my descendants resided in small confined spaces, and tried to get by as best they could. This involved, finally, my father leaving, and joining the Merchant Navy, aged 14.

So much of this manuscript – The Accidental Anarchist (Bryna Kranzler) – resonates with me personally. And I know it is going to resonate with so many people in the general public, Jewish, or otherwise.

We all face a certain amount of hardship, some more than others – and in modern western society – it is far more likely to be our forbears who have suffered more than ourselves. Whereas in less advantaged societies, third world countries etc – the stories are probably worse than those of my grandmother’s.

Though of course a huge function of the written word in book form, is entertainment, books can also inform and bridge a vast cultural divide… and make the world a smaller place.

Next time… not so serious. 🙂 Moving on to exciting fiction.

C

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