A Nobody with Whom You Should Get Acquainted

by Mark Chmiel

Dear Shimmelstoy

After our conversation yesterday afternoon
I wrote the following lines
Thanks for your encouragement
If you want to pass it on
To some of your students
Go right ahead

Bella Levenshteyn

 

He was never invited to the White House
He didn’t get applauded by the US Congress
He didn’t fraternize with the rich and powerful who’ve created innumerable victims
He didn’t make big bucks on the speaking circuit
He didn’t live long enough to be invited on Oprah
He spent six years writing a book of 70 pages
Based on his experiences of surviving the khurbn
Many of his works still haven’t been translated from the Yiddish

Though you may know something about Elie Wiesel
(Maybe he inspires you, perhaps he makes you sick to your stomach)
I bet you’ve never heard of Rachmil Bryks
Much less his writings—
A Cat in the Ghetto, A Cupboard in the Ghetto
Kiddush Hashem, Berele in the Ghetto
Bryks wrote I had wanted to write only documents—in my own way— that would shock and shake the reader.
Art does not interest me.

There is already so much to read
Many people think, “I already know about Auschwitz and all that
Why should I read a book about 70 years ago”
Bryks’ book is what Kafka had in mind
It’s not for your entertainment
It’s not for your diversion
It’s not for you for to forget a day after you finish reading it
It’s an axe for the sea frozen inside you

–from work-in-progress, Our Heroic and Ceaseless 24/7 Struggle against Tsuris

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