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At Barnard College, I majored in Program in the Arts: Writing. My particular focus was on playwriting, and a short play I wrote during that time won the school’s Helen Prince Award for Excellence in Dramatic Writing. My first full-length play, “Do Hermaphrodites Reproduce Only in the Spring?” was a finalist in the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center Competition, and was scheduled for production twice: the first time, the theater owner died, and the season was shut down; the second time, the director committed suicide. For the benefit of the arts community, I thought it best to get out of playwriting.
But economic necessity drove me to get a real (read ‘paying’) job, and I spent fifteen years in marketing and public relation positions with consumer product, high-tech and health care companies. Somewhere between these jobs, I returned to school and earned my M.B.A. from Yale School of Organization and Management.
When I was finally able to return my focus to writing, I found that my interests had shifted to fiction, and more recently to narrative, or ‘creative,’ non-fiction, as in The Accidental Anarchist.
on Jan. 07, 2012 :
The Accidental Anarchist
From the Diaries of Jacob Marateck
By Bryna Kranzler
Translated by Shimon Wincelberg and
Anita Marateck Wincelberg
Bryna Kranzler, the granddaughter of Jacob Marateck, gathered all of the information gleaned by her parents, Shimon and Anita, from the diaries of Jacob Marateck and compiled it into a comprehensive personal journey of Jacob Marateck, capturing the incredibly wry humor of her grandfather. Jacob was a Polish Jew and in 1902 Poland was a part of Russia. Jacob left school when 13 because there was little for Jews in Poland or Russia, tried being a Jewish student for a month, then joined his brother Mordecai as a baker’s assistant for seven years, and when he became disgusted with the 20 to 22 hour workdays, agitated the rest of the crew to revolt. Eventually he lost his baker’s job, but managed to become a labor organizer, without pay, influencing 3,000 other workers to revolt against the Czar, for which eventually he was sentenced to death twice, which he managed to evade.
All young men at age twenty-one were automatically conscripted into the Russian Army and he found himself with other Jews, Polish, Russian and German conscripts. Throughout the entire story, Jacob’s suffering and his survival centered on the Jews. For several hundred years, life in Russia for all, other than the aristocracy, was brutal, and especially so the pogroms against the Jews. And it was no different in the Army. Military conditions for everyone in the Russian Army were incredibly bad due to inept officers, lack of food, clothing, and billeting. From the very first the raw conscripts went days hungry, no place to sleep, perpetually wet and freezing cold due to long Russian winters. And the Jews in the military were the last to receive anything. It was the practice of the Russian Officers to send the Jews out first, often without requested armaments so they would get killed.
In the early 1900s the Russian Army was sent to Manchuria to fight the Japanese. Jacob told of horrendous military conditions; that more men were killed fighting the Japanese than had died in all of the wars up to the battle of Waterloo. The Russian Army didn’t have any type of modern equipment except rifles, often lacked ammunition, and the officers weren’t trained well in war maneuvers. The Russian units became separated and lost much of the time, sometimes firing on each other. The Japanese were well trained, well equipped and won every battle. Only an armistice saved Jacob and a few of his friends for most of them were killed or died from wounds because of inadequate medical help.
About the time of Jacob’s release from the Army, he and his unit had gone four days without sleep, and he fell asleep while on duty. Caught by an officer, the military court condemned him to be executed. At the last moment, the court accepted his defense and changed his sentence to ten years hard labor in Siberia. He spent over a month being shipped north on a rotting barge and then it would take about eight months, weighted down in leg irons, to walk the thousands of miles north to Siberia. Cassocks on horseback guarded the prisoners, who died from exposure, starvation and bodily injuries, if not killed first by a Cassock. Eventually Jacob and a fellow Jew, known in Warsaw as King of the Thieves, escaped and faced new adventures and dangers.
This story is written like a novel with drama, romance, conflict, danger, and much Jewish philosophy, but peppered throughout with humorous analogies and metaphors that make light of what otherwise would be a very dark and depressing story. I enjoyed every word of it and recommend it to all readers, especially those who like historical novels for this could be considered one if it wasn’t for the fact that it is non-fiction.
(reviewed within a week of purchase)