Author: Bryna Kranzler
Publisher: Crosswalk Press
Bryna Kranzler has a deep, compelling compassion for her family roots, especially of that of a grandfather she never met. In her book, The Accidental Anarchist, Bryna captures not only the heart of her Jewish grandparent, but his wit and character too.
This three hundred and thirty eight page book covers about ten years of the life of Jacob Marateck, a Polish soldier, a professing Jew and a part-time revolutionary who was sentenced to death twice and escaped a Siberian forced labor camp, all before age twenty-five. Included in the book is one small photograph of the diminutive man and a map showing his travels. The footnotes explaining Jewish terms or Russian words are helpful to the reader.
The majority of the novel apparently was originally written as twenty-eight notebooks by Jacob Marateck and translated by relatives through the years. Jacob’s granddaughter, Bryna, accepted the challenge of making it real to the reader. She states the stories are the same but dialogue has been enhanced. She does not disappoint the reader. It is written in first person, past tense and one cannot tell there are two or three writers (with generational family members assisting with translation).
Starting as a young teen who becomes a bakery assistant that wants to unionize to a corporal in the Russian army during the early 1900s, Jacob befriends companions who change his life. His army friend, Glasnik, and his escapee partner in Siberia, Pyavka, bring such humanism and companionship to the adventures that they become another focal point. Through these types of friendships are where the compassion toward his religion and character build. Jacob relies often on his Jewish upbringing and how he deals with the anti-Semitic country life, whether in the trenches fighting the war, walking in chains to the desolate Siberia, or finding a wife by matchmakers.
The dry wit, charm and obvious sarcasm are a delight to read. The reader wants to rush through a paragraph but is forced to slow down and actually chew and swallow the words to understand their underlying meanings. Sometimes the reader wishes the stories do not end so abruptly because they are so heartfelt and personal. The reader wants more.
The Accidental Anarchist is a good read for anyone studying the Russo-Japanese War or wanting to know about the Jews during that time period. You feel you are actually reading Jacob’s written words and thoughts. The reader is left to wonder what happens to Jacob later in life and wishes there were more diaries that could be translated.
Posted April 2012: