Monthly Archives: February 2017

Lovely Photos of a Bygone Era

Carved Memories: Heritage in Stone from the Russian Jewish PaleCarved Memories: Heritage in Stone from the Russian Jewish Pale by David Goberman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Robert Pinsky’s introduction to this collection of David Goberman’s gravestone photography is poetic and devastating. Pinsky speaks of these gravestones as not only recording the lives whose names they bear but also as markers that memorialize the death of a world that no longer exists, wiped out by World War II and Stalin.

Starting in the 1930s, David Goberman photographed the Jewish graveyards beyond the Pale of Russia. In this so-called Pale of Settlement, Jews made up almost twelve percent of the population. A million and a half Jews lived in some 700 towns and cities that had Jewish majorities. In some cases, they had lived there for centuries. Some of the grave markers are no better than folk art: lions carved by someone who has only ever seen a lion pictured in a book. Others are wonderful, complex works of art, combining typography and symbolism to reveal the lives of the people buried below.

This is a beautiful book and lovingly produced. The only reason I’ve taken one star off is because it paints such a dire picture unnecessarily. Yes, much is gone: the communities, their culture, the graveyards themselves. However, some does survive: the large, lovely graveyard at Chernivitsi in the Western Ukraine still exists and still welcomes heritage tourists.

This is not to say that what graveyards do survive are not endangered. These days, more than ever, it seems that we are called on to protect the relics of the past, to remember the lessons they teach us.

This book is really cheap on Amazon and you should have a copy for your cemetery book collection: http://amzn.to/2lxy48Z

View all my reviews on GoodReads.

The Art Tour of Staglieno Cemetery

Staglieno: The Art of the Marble CarverStaglieno: The Art of the Marble Carver by Walter S Arnold

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the first cemetery book I’ve read that was written by a sculptor. Arnold enthuses about the magnificent statuary of Staglieno Cemetery in Genoa. He goes through all the hands that a grave marker statue passes through from initial conception to the final polish, then spends the rest of the book drawing the reader’s attention to the exquisite details on display in Staglieno. I will never look at cemetery statues the same way.

However, if you are looking for a guide to Staglieno, full of biographies of the dead or names of particular artists, this is not the book for you. Beyond a cursory history of the cemetery, Arnold isn’t interested in names and dates. He’s an artist, here to look at art. I really appreciated having him as my guide.

The book is available on Amazon, but it’s really expensive for a paperback. Here’s the link: http://amzn.to/2lYQfFO

I ordered my copy direct from Arnold and had him sign it, too: http://www.stonecarver.com/Staglieno.html

View all my reviews on Goodreads.