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Description - Rodinsky's Room by Rachel Lichtenstein

Rodinsky's world was that of the East European Jewry, cabbalistic speculation, an obsession with language as code and terrible loss. He touched the imagination of artist Rachel Lichtenstein, whose grandparents had left Poland in the thirties. This text weaves together Lichtenstein's quest for Rodinsky -which took her to Poland, to Israel and around Jewish London -with Iain Sinclair's meditations on her journey into her own past, and on the Whitechapel he has reinvented.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9781862073296
ISBN-10: 1862073295
Format: Paperback
(196mm x 128mm x 25mm)
Pages: 352
Imprint: Granta Books
Publisher: Granta Books
Publish Date: 14-Feb-2000
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Other Editions - Rodinsky's Room by Rachel Lichtenstein

Book Reviews - Rodinsky's Room by Rachel Lichtenstein

UK Kirkus Review » This is the story of an investigation into a locked room mystery, of a vanishing Jew, of Lichtenstein's immigration back through time and her search of the shadows of the ghetto. What exactly is she seeking? Perhaps you believe in a sense of place - can the walls themselves be somehow imprinted by the events that took place there? If you find this idea difficult to imagine, then this book might just change your mind. David Rodinsky's attic room at the top of 19 Princelet Street is said to have an extraordinary and mysterious atmosphere. The famous Gralton photograph of the interior shows a large wardrobe spilling old clothes outwards while at the same time collapsing the space of the room into its mirror. The wardrobe is an entry to a hidden place, more mad than Alice's looking-glass. Lichtenstein spent days in the tiny room from which Rodinsky vanished, constructing an archaeology of the squalor that fleshes out the myth of the impoverished scholar driven beyond his limits in equal parts by hunger and the pursuit of arcane knowledge. Her project is a cultural one, a literal embalming of the arcana into art objects that help to stabilize the troublesome past of Spitalfields. Spitalfields is a mythic territory, and Sinclair is an obsessive cartographer. His dialogue with Lichtenstein is founded on the names of streets bound by historical webs of poverty and privations, echoing the madness and malignancy of this century's Jewish history. The presence of the past is as hard to see as smoke at dusk, yet Rodinsky is still here. Present, not just in the account of Lichtenstein and Sinclair, but between the words, a certain tempo, a measure of obsessive and arcane pursuits. (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » Fascinating tale of Jewish mystic-hermit David Rodinsky, whose London room is opened up after nearly 20 years, by artist Lichtenstein and with contributions by author Sinclair (Downriver, 1993). The term quirky doesn't come close to describing this work, which blends Lichtenstein's autobiography, her biography of Rodinsky, a social history of London's Jewish immigrant neighborhood, and Sinclair's critical look at Lichtenstein's attempts to discover the truth about herself and Rodinsky. Lichtenstein begins the story with her attempts to discover what she can of her family's immigrant past in the London neighborhood of Spitalfields, and then is quickly engrossed by the story of David Rodinsky, who was legendary in his neighborhood for his seeming disappearance. Rodinsky's room was left exactly as he had last left ita small garret above a synagogue, filled with notebooks in a number of languages, religious texts, and his personal effects. From this room, Lichtenstein's journey to discover what she can of this strange man spirals outward to encompass a cross section of London's Jewish community and takes her to Israel, a shtetl in Poland, and just about anyone who ever remembered Rodinsky. Lichtenstein's intensely personal writing is first-rate, and she quickly creates a stirring portrait of Rodinsky as a man who suddenly found himself alone in his room as London's Jewish community moved away from his surrounding neighborhood. Less interesting are the chapters by Sinclair, which are interspersed throughout the work and serve to distract from a story that is intrinsically one of Lichtenstein and Rodinsky. As Lichtenstein discovers more and more of Rodinsky, her mission becomes less to discover the man than to discover his place of burial and to put his soul to rest through telling his story and saying Kaddish over the grave. Flawed in structure but beautifully written and completely captivating. (photos) (Kirkus Reviews)


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