Re: a must-see movie about Jewish life in the Ukraine? #ukraine

Nina Kossman <nina@...>

Avishalom (Avi) Klammer writes, in part:
I'd also take this opportunity to recommend to all the
masterpiece must-see (feature) movie: Everything is
Illuminated (which very much tells what jewish life in
the Ukraine is/was-to a point of my feeling an
incredibly intense connection to it-a connection that
I believe reflects how life in the Ukraine, used to be
for my grandmother, whom sadly, I know very little
about... A must-see/must-not-miss (not recent) movie,
available on DVD (Netflix, etc...).

While I appreciate the recommendation, to see "Everything is Illuminated", I
have to politely disagree with the opinion of the recommender about this
"must-see" movie. Neither the book nor the movie accurately "reflect
what Jewish life in the Ukraine is/was." For those of us who lived in the
former Soviet Union or studied the period the author's blatant mistakes are
obvious. "Everything is Illuminated" appeals to an American's fantasy of
Jewish life in the "old country" but unfortunately it's all made up; the
author even got the date of the German invasion wrong (and repeats this
mistake several times). Also, >from the main character's mangled English, it
is obvious that the author knows neither Ukrainian nor Russian grammar which
could have helped him to create plausible mistakes in his narrator's
English. Foer's 18th century characters use makeup and drink iced tea (!);
his Soviet-era characters experience / reflect none of the cataclysms of
that time (e.g. Communism, the great famine, collectivization, mass roundups
/ executions in the years which preceded the German invasion, etc). If you
want to read a more truthful story about "how life was" for Jews in the
Ukraine, and how it was destroyed, I recommend Anatoly Rybakov's excellent
novel "Heavy Sand." Rybakov was born near the time and place he describes
and knows what he is talking about--he's a great writer. "A Scrap of Time"
and "Journey" by Ida Fink are great works of art as well as eyewitness
accounts of the Holocaust on territory of Poland/Ukraine. There is also "The
Lone Survivor" by Michael Diment, a diary of the author's survival in a
small-town Ukrainian ghetto. And don't miss "Babii Yar" by Anatolii
Kuznetzov: the author lived right near the place, and his "document in the
form of a novel" is testimony to what he saw and heard. An account of the
destruction of the Lithuanian Jews can be found in "Kaddish for Kovno: Life
and Death in a Lithuanian Ghetto 1941-1945" by William W. Mishell. (Mishell
is a survivor of the Kovno ghetto). I can recommend more books for those who
are interested. These authors recount their own harrowing experience; as
Foer lacks this experience, he fills in the blank spots with his narrators'
sexual exploits and quirky diction, which wears off after some twenty pages.
Holocaust does not need to be made entertaining or clever; it is shocking
enough when told plainly. Remember Primo Levy on writing about the
Holocaust. As for books on pre-Holocaust Jewish life in the Ukraine, there
are of course Isaak Babel, Isaak Singer, and Sholom Aleichem.

Nina Kossman

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