Debut novel by Shelly Kupferberg

"Isidor. A Jewish Life" - JFBB presenter reconstructs the life of her Jewish great-granduncle Isidor Geller.

We spoke with Shelly Kupferberg about her debut novel.

What is your book about?
What art hung in my great-granduncle's palace in Vienna? I started a little personal research with this question. With each piece of information that I found in numerous archives of this world, the picture of a remarkable biography unfolded: that of a man who made his way from the poorest East Galician Orthodox milieu to Vienna, where he became a successful lawyer, commercial councillor and advisor to the Austrian state. A bon vivant, an opera and art lover, who tried to cover up his Jewish identity. Isidor. I began to reconstruct his life, including his love affair with a Budapest singer who was discovered by Hollywood in Vienna in the late 1930s and became a star of the 1940s. Letters, old documents and newspaper articles gave me the material for my book. And made me ask again and again: what remains of a person when nothing remains of him?

Why did you write down the story now?
My research began as a purely private matter. I never intended to write a book. But as I began to find out more about him and reconstruct his life, I wondered more and more what a person must be like to display such a will to rise. Isidor was a self-made man, like so many people of that time, around 1900. He reinvented himself, pulled himself out of misery by his own sleigh, and made a fast and tremendous career, which was brutally ended by the Nazis. This biography - it is one of hundreds of thousands of forgotten, untold life stories - has kept me incredibly busy. Why, I can't say exactly. It was an urge, I couldn't help but start writing down his story.

What touched you the most even during the writing process?
It makes me happy in a melancholy way to have given a person back his story. It doesn't help him himself, but it can tell posterity a thing or two. This may sound a little strange, but I believe in the power of stories.

Shelly Kupferberg will read on Saturday January 7 at the Neue Bühne Senftenberg.
On January 15, she will be a guest at the Buchhandlung Hansen in Berlin-Schlachtensee.
On January 25, Shelly Kupferberg will read from her debut novel at 6 p.m. at the Haus der Brandenburgisch-Preußischen Geschichte Potsdam.