Saturday, March 17, 2012

Book Club - March

This month Rox was once again our gracious hostess. We read "People of the Book" by Geraldine Brooks.  The subject of this well-written and fascinating story is the Sarajevo Haggadah.

From Wikipedia:
The Sarajevo Haggadah is an illuminated manuscript that contains the illustrated traditional text of the Passover Haggadah which accompanies the Passover Seder. It is one of the oldest Sephardic Haggadahs in the world, originating in Barcelona around 1350. The Haggadah is presently owned by the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo, where it is on permanent display. Its monetary value is undetermined, but a museum in Spain required that it be insured for $700 million before it could be transported to an exhibition there in 1992.[1] The Sarajevo Haggadah is handwritten on bleached calfskin and illuminated in copper and gold. It opens with 34 pages of illustrations of key scenes in the Bible from creation through the death of Moses. Its pages are stained with wine, evidence that it was used at many Passover Seders.[2]

Illustration from Haggadah
Illustration from Haggadah

 Geraldine Brooks is a former war correspondent who covered Sarajevo during the Bosnian war. She is the author of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize winning novel "March" about the civil war and "Year of Wonders" about the bubonic plague in England.

This tale is told in the voice of an Australian book conservator, a young, adventurous and complicated young woman who unravels mysteries of the book's travels throughout history from objects she finds contained in the book - a moth wing, a grain of salt. The story is entirely fiction but based on the true known history of the Haggadah in 15th century Spain where it originated and in 17th century Venice and 20th century Sarajevo. We all loved the book.

Goys, to a man (?) in the club - our only expert is Beth who is married to a Jew. She was able to shed light on many questions we had about the culture but most importantly she brought gefilte fish and matzoh ball soup to eat, which we all enjoyed.
Barb in her blue top

Beth in her blue top
Beth in her blue top and Rox in back, in her blue top

It turned out to be a three soup night: potato and kale, split pea and ham and the matzoh ball. Almost everyone wore a blue top and brought soup. We had wonderful bread, a couple of hors d'oeuvres and Beth's delicious oranges for dessert.

Next month it's the Poetry Slam and we wear another color. We bring our own poems to read if we've written any, a favorite poem, we can write one for the occasion or read one from our complimentary copy of Poetry magazine, in which Beth's brother-in-law Sean's poem, "Bemidji Blues" has been published.

I'm working on a poem I'll bring if I can get it finished. Poetry, I've found is almost impossible to finish - slippery stuff. You put the words in place, think about them for a while and next thing you know they've slid into new places and morphed into new words. The damnable things trigger thoughts and cling to your grey matter, like lint to a piece of velcro. The fewer words, the better. Haiku uses few.

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