Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Bittersweet End

I find myself overcome. Both with sadness and joy, not because this is a milestone in the process of publishing the diaries, but because of the beauty and sadness with which the last chapter left me. It shouldn’t come as any surprise to learn that my grandfather survived, that after the multiple death sentences and escaping from a Siberian prison camp, he made his way back home (or rather, almost home, as javascript:void(0)it was deemed too dangerous for him to return to his home, Vishigrod. Instead, he went to Warsaw where he had not made quite as many enemies). Along the way, we become almost intimately acquainted with the colorful friend with whom he escaped from Siberia, and shared the adventures over the last few months of running and hiding. Only to have this remarkable individual, whom my grandfather alternately loved and hated, die two days after they arrive home.

As I said, it was not safe for my grandfather to return to Vishigrod where the police my demand and scrutinize his false passport. In fact, nowhere in all of Poland or Russia was deemed safe for a person of his background, not just a convict, a revolutionary,an anarchist, but also a Jew. The only place the family felt it was safe to go was America. But lest he fall into the hands of a “whiskey-guzzling, cigarette-smoking American woman of uncertain ethics,” it was decided that he must be married, first. Therewith begins the comical process of specifying desirable characteristics, reviewing photos (I didn’t know they had been in wide use then, then being 1906?), rejecting almost all of them, and only reluctantly agreeing to meet a few.

The story of adventure and intrigue now becomes a love story as my grandfather became possessed by the need to thank the girl who had picked up his note at the train station, which led to his having his death sentence reduced to permanent exile to Siberia and a life of hard labor. Considering the length of time it took to reach his particular Siberian prison camp, and then the time it took him to make his way back across some six thousand miles, I was surprised to learn that only one year had passed.

The love story proceeds with all the usual and some unusual obstacles. “What, after all, is a love story without some towering obstacle to test the young couple's dedication - - be it jealousy, a misunderstanding, or the collision of heedless youth and immoveable old age - - that essential staple of Yiddish melodrama?

The only thing I will add to this story is that I am named for the girl who had saved my grandfather’s life.

Having finished the minor edits on all the chapters of my grandfather’s diaries doesn’t mean that the book is done. Next begin the process of seeing where I might make cuts that will preserve the essence of the story while editing it such that the story never slows down.

Now I must solicit quotes from “thought leaders” and investigate the different self-publishing options. I think I’ve already identified the book jacket designer I want to work with but feel it’s only fair that he base his quote on the criteria of the publishing venue I plan to use. (None of this is as fun as the writing or editing, but that’s the way it goes).

Stay tuned, as I’m eager for my blog followers’ reactions to three potential titles for the book, which will be posted along with the cover design when available.

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1 comment:

  1. how exciting. re cover designs and potential titles.