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Sunday, May 24, 2015

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Michael Wex to translate classic Yiddish novel

Tags: Arts

Joseph Opatoshu was one of the Yiddish language’s most significant writers, but few readers have had the opportunity of reading his work, a situation that Toronto author Michael Wex is hoping to change. Opatoshu is “like the Yiddish equivalent of Hemingway or Fitzgerald in terms of influence, but he hardly exists in English,” Wex lamented.

A Yiddish maven and author of the 2005 bestseller Born to Kvetch and other books, Wex is hoping to bring new attention to Opatoshu by translating into English his 1921 novel In the Forests of Poland, which he describes as “the most important Yiddish novel of the 20th century.”

The new translation “will change everybody’s views of Jewish life in Poland,” he said, adding that his own plan to fund the translation project may transform the way such forgotten classics are translated in future. 

This week Wex intends to enlist financial support for the translation from lovers of Jewish literature through an online funding campaign on the Indiegogo website. His eventual goal is to publish the translation as a cost-free PDF or e-book. “I’m going to try to finance it as an Indiegogo project. The contributors will basically be making a present of the book to anyone with access to a computer or e-book reader.” 

Indiegogo is an international “crowdfunding” site where people attempt to raise money for film, music, art, charitable and other projects and causes. Wex’s Indiegogo site was slated to go live on May 7 and remain active for a month.

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Film Club Screens Footnote: The film and book club of the Beth Tzedec Max and Beatrice Wolfe Library is screening the 2011 Israeli dramatic film Footnote, dealing with the rivalry of two great scholars, a father and son; the film was an Oscar nominee for best foreign film. 1700 Bathurst St., Monday, May 13, film 10:30 a.m., dessert 12:30 p.m., review by Heather Kassel at 1 p.m. $20 at the door; RSVP preferred, 416-781-3511.

BBC Cancels Broadcast: The British Broadcasting Corporation is being criticized for its last-minute decision to cancel the broadcast of the Israeli documentary film Exile: A Myth Unearthed, about the Jewish exodus from Jerusalem in 70 CE. The film, by director Ilan Ziv, was featured in the Toronto Jewish Film Festival in April and has also been shown on Canadian television.

The film hypothesizes that many Jews stayed in Jerusalem after the destruction of the Temple and are the ancestors of some present-day Palestinians. According to a story from JTA, the BBC said the film did “not fit editorially” with its season and its professed theme of exploring the history of archeology.

Simon Plosker of the watchdog agency HonestReporting suggested the BBC dropped the documentary so as not to upset anti-Israel elements “by showing a film with such a heavy concentration on Jewish history in the Land of Israel.” The BBC has often come under fire in the past from supporters of Israel for its coverage of the events in the Middle East.  

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Names in the News: Legendary music promoter Bernie Finkelstein, author of the engaging memoir True North: A Life in the Music Business, is one of four finalists for this year’s National Business Book Award, a prestigious literary prize worth $20,000. The other contenders are Chrystia Freeland for Plutocrats, Douglas Hunter for Double Double (about Tim Hortons) and Amanda Lang for The Power of Why.

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Theatre Scene

• Maya Rabinovitch’s play I Will Not Hatch!, which focuses on a wild episode on an airplane involving a suspected terrorist, continues at the Berkeley Street Theatre until May 11. 416-368-1110, www.canadianstage.com

• Adam Seelig’s small theatre company, One Little Goat, presents The Charge of the Expormidable Moose by Quebec playwright Claude Gauvreau, performed in English translation; the seven-person play is regarded as a masterpiece of Montreal’s radical artistic movement. Tarragon Theatre Extra Space, 30 Bridgman Ave. May 10 to 26. $28, 25, $20. www.OneLittleGoat.org, 416-531-1827.


Arts in Brief

• Toronto Workmen’s Circle and Now and Then Books present the launch of Only Yesterday: Collected Pieces on the Jews of Toronto, by Ben Kayfetz and Stephen Speisman. The launch features a presentation by the book’s editor and CJN columnist Bill Gladstone. 471 Lawrence Ave. W., Thursday, May 9, 7:30 p.m. Admission free, everyone welcome. www.nowandthenbookstoronto.com

• Love ’em or Hate ’em, a series of discussions about four controversial film directors by Adam Nayman, opens May 13 with Roman Polanski. Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre, $12 drop-in, students $6. 416-924-6211, ext. 606. 

 • Canada-Israel Cultural Foundation presents violin prodigy Itamar Zorman of Israel, accompanied by pianist Liza Stepanova. The concert takes place in a private residence in Thornhill, Thursday, May 23, 7:30 p.m. Suggested minimum donation, $100 per person. www.cicfweb.ca, 416-932-2260. 

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At the Galleries

• The Art Gallery of Ontario presents works by legendary photographers Irving Penn, Arnaud Maggs, Richard Avedon and many others as part of the Contact Photography Festival. The exhibition, Light My Fire, showcases photographic portraits created over a 150-year period. Currently on view. 

• Petroff Gallery is closing its doors at 1016 Eglinton Ave. W. and “going virtual” as of June 18, with a planned new firm, Petroff Design, slated to begin operations in the fall. A retrospective celebration takes place at the gallery on Thursday May 30, 5 to 10 p.m. The gallery owners are Sara Levine Petroff and Steven L. Petroff.

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