Rodinsky´s room

Author : Rachel Lichtenstein

Available : Rented
Age Group :Adults
Published to critical acclaim last year in the U.K., British artist Lichtenstein´s obsessive quest to uncover the fate of a reclusive Jewish scholar named David Rodinsky unfolds as a labyrinthine detective story and a moving search for the author´s roots. Fluent in several languages, alive and dead, Rodinsky was the caretaker of one of London´s oldest synagogues and lived above it in an attic room until he disappeared mysteriously in the late 1960s. Left undisturbed for over a decade, his abandoned room was finally unsealed to reveal chaos: hundreds of books and records, mystical formulas and diagrams, diaries and bizarre poems. Was Rodinsky, as those who remembered him variously claimed, a self-taught kabbalist, a holy fool, a Dostoyevskian ´´underground man´´--or was he a sad, mentally handicapped autistic? To find the answers, Lichtenstein consulted a kabbalist rabbi in Jerusalem, tracked down Rodinsky´s surviving relatives and journeyed to Poland, where she delved into Rodinsky´s past as well as her own family´s (her grandparents escaped Poland in the 1930s to settle in East London). Lichtenstein´s first-person narrative alternates with ruminative chapters by novelist/essayist Sinclair, who examines the legends surrounding Rodinsky and scrutinizes the rediscovery of East London by novelists, filmmakers and artists, who view it as a sanctuary preserving remnants of immigrant culture, Georgian London and working-class values. Ultimately, the Rodinsky enigma cannot support the speculative and interpretive edifice built around his memory, but his obscure life, a metaphor of Jewish tragedy and survival, yields a vibrant time capsule to the lost worlds of London´s Jewish East End and the Eastern European shtetl. Photos.

Published to critical acclaim last year in the U.K., British artist Lichtenstein´s obsessive quest to uncover the fate of a reclusive Jewish scholar named David Rodinsky unfolds as a labyrinthine detective story and a moving search for the author´s roots. Fluent in several languages, alive and dead, Rodinsky was the caretaker of one of London´s oldest synagogues and lived above it in an attic room until he disappeared mysteriously in the late 1960s. Left undisturbed for over a decade, his abandoned room was finally unsealed to reveal chaos: hundreds of books and records, mystical formulas and diagrams, diaries and bizarre poems. Was Rodinsky, as those who remembered him variously claimed, a self-taught kabbalist, a holy fool, a Dostoyevskian ´´underground man´´--or was he a sad, mentally handicapped autistic? To find the answers, Lichtenstein consulted a kabbalist rabbi in Jerusalem, tracked down Rodinsky´s surviving relatives and journeyed to Poland, where she delved into Rodinsky´s past as well as her own family´s (her grandparents escaped Poland in the 1930s to settle in East London). Lichtenstein´s first-person narrative alternates with ruminative chapters by novelist/essayist Sinclair, who examines the legends surrounding Rodinsky and scrutinizes the rediscovery of East London by novelists, filmmakers and artists, who view it as a sanctuary preserving remnants of immigrant culture, Georgian London and working-class values. Ultimately, the Rodinsky enigma cannot support the speculative and interpretive edifice built around his memory, but his obscure life, a metaphor of Jewish tragedy and survival, yields a vibrant time capsule to the lost worlds of London´s Jewish East End and the Eastern European shtetl. Photos.

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