Melekh Ravitsh - The Eccentric Outback Quest of an Urbane Yiddish Poet from Poland by Anna Epstein


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Melekh Ravitsh - The eccentric outback quest of an urbane Yiddish poet from Poland, is a fascinating and beautiful book about art and adventure, Jewish history, First Nation Australians, and the plight of refugees in the modern world.

In 1933, as fascism spread its terrifying tentacles across Europe, the Yiddish poet Melekh Ravitsh traversed the Australian outback from Adelaide to Darwin in search of a homeland for persecuted Jews. On this romantic and optimistic enterprise, he took 90 Box Brownie photographs, annotated in Yiddish. Decades later, Ravitsh’s son, the artist Yosl Bergner, was inspired by his father’s photographs to make a series of paintings called Melekh Ravitsh in the Kimberleys.

With haunting reference to the current refugee crisis, the author Anna Epstein has uncovered Ravitsh’s daring and exuberant adventure, in her own and in Ravitsh’s words. Ravitsh’s fascinating photographs of the 1930s outback have been miraculously magnified. In vivid colour reproductions of Bergner’s paintings and in his writing, the story is refracted through the son’s wry, later-life view of his father. But although Bergner saw his father’s adventure as a fantasy, his quest demonstrates a profound understanding of refugee reality.

Paperback book 2019

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