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Jump Artist

Jump Artist

3.7 10
by Austin Ratner

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ISBN-10: 1934137154

ISBN-13: 2901934137153

Pub. Date: 05/01/2009

Publisher: Bellevue Literary Press

Winner of the 2011 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature

A novel of Philippe Halsman's life, from Austrian prisoner, to Paris exile, to American celebrity photographer.


Winner of the 2011 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature

A novel of Philippe Halsman's life, from Austrian prisoner, to Paris exile, to American celebrity photographer.

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Bellevue Literary Press
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The Jump Artist 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Ronrose More than 1 year ago
This is a highly fictionalized account of the life of Philippe Halsman. As a young man, Halsman was falsely accused of murdering his father while on a hiking trip in the Austrian Alps. The fact he was Jewish may have been a factor in his arrest. After two traumatic years in prison, his family managed to secure him a pardon. He worked hard to reinvent himself as a photographer in France in the late 1930's. When the war encroached on Paris, he managed to flee to America with his family. After years of adjustment he would eventually establish himself as a leading photographer for Life magazine capturing many of the most notable faces of the twentieth century. The writing is often pedantic, dark, and hard to follow due to a train of thought style. The constant infusion of foreign phrases, mostly German, while adding atmosphere, also slow down the flow. It's almost as hard to get through this book as it was for Halsman to achieve his fame.
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Grady1GH More than 1 year ago
Austin Ratner joins the ranks of physicians-turned-writers (Rabelais, Keats, Chekhov, Somerset Maugham, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, William Carlos Williams, Michael Crichton, Khaled Hosseini, etc) in this very impressive debut novel THE JUMP ARTIST, a 'fictionalized biographical novel' of Philippe Halsman, considered to be one of the world's top 10 photographers. Ratner proves himself to be not only a fine investigative historian, but also a writer adept at exploring several languages and countries and enhancing the character perception of some very famous people. And he accomplishes this with a gift for story telling that promises he will be around for a significant new career! THE JUMP ARTIST, a title given to Halsman as a photographer who achieved complex demands on celebrities who served as his models: 'Everyone jumps (quite literally) when Halsman commands.' But to understand this gifted photographer's approach to his art, author Ratner takes us back to Halsman's childhood when in 1929 he was accused and abruptly imprisoned for the death of his father - an unsolved incident when Halsman was hiking with his father, his father fell and died, and circumstantial evidence (real or placed) lead to an anti-Semitic kangaroo court convicting him of murder/patricide. Released from prison with tuberculosis and a broken spirit, Halsman's family and friends and nurse him back to health and Halsman discovers the art of photography, moves to Paris, and becomes - gradually and with the backing of such celebrities as Andre Gide and Albert Einstien - becomes a renowned photographer. Between the anti-Semitism that flooded Europe during and after World War II Halsman proved himself not only a survivor of his self-imposed guilt but also his surviving the purge of Jews. Ratner makes his writing more solid by using quotes form the famous people in Halsman's life/story. For example, he introduces his book with Andre Gide's statement ' fiction is history which MIGHT have taken place, and history is fiction which HAS taken place.' Later in the book, when Halsman is photographing Gide he adapts the language of Gide to further create his drama: "Some people speak of 'finding oneself'.....but most people don't know what that means, They think of themselves as a mystery to be found out. But no one is a mystery. Everyone is what they always were. The courageous thing is to be who one always was and to find in the world those people and places that are like oneself.' Ratner unfolds his story slowly, carefully, rich with atmospheric descriptions of settings - from the filth and agony of prisons to the beauty of the Alps and the excitement of the streets of Paris. It all comes together to enhance our understanding of a man we know only as a famous photographer in a novel whose title not only recalls the 'jump technique' of a camera genius, but also the 'jump accident' of his father' that started it all. This is fine writing and a solid introduction to another physician novelist! Grady Harp
shakescene More than 1 year ago
"The Jump Artist" is one of those books that will stay with you forever--a classic like D.M. Thomas's "The White Hotel," that shows how the forces of history resonate in the life of one person. Philipp Halsmann, a 22-year-old Latvian Jew, is falsely accused of his father's murder while hiking in Austria, where the terrifying malevolence of a rooted and superstitious anti-semitism is re-emerging. The horrors of the imprisonment and trial endanger his life, even after his pardon through the intervention of such men as Freud and Einstein; he is tormented by feelings of shame and guilt, and enraged at a world he can't control. The novel is intensely suspenseful, posing a primal, ultimate question: can someone recover desire and meaning when stripped of everything, and so save his own life? One reason we read the literature of the Holocaust, people like Elie Weisel and Primo Levi, is to understand how to live in the aftermath of the unimaginable. This book, with great beauty and passion, shows us how.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ratner proves that historical fiction can be true literature. As he depicts Halsman's traumatic experiences of loss and victimization as a young adult, he parallels the psychological devastation with the callousness and cruelty of the coming Nazi regime set against a forbidding physical landscape, the Austrian Alps. In prose that is moving, compelling, and yet easily readable, Ratner draws the reader into a truly resonant story of a life torn apart and a life rebuilt. If you look at the successful Halsman's wonderful photographs, you feel that Ratner's imagined Halsman had the depth to produce works of art. In this novel, fiction, literature, art and truth come together in a beautifully structured and written whole.
Dawparis More than 1 year ago
Ratner's The Jump Artist is at one time a great thriller, a moving and psychological study, and beautiful literature. The story of Philippe Halsman's rigged trial at the hands of the anti-semitic powers in Austria in the late 1920's is a dramatic and true story of an individual's traumatic experience, as well as his subsequent guilt and shame. At the same time, it is a picture of an historical era that was the precursor to the devestation to come. The suspense of the trial captures the reader from the first page; the ability of Halsman to construct a life after his experiences, a life that is meaningful and redemptive, carries the reader through to the end of this remarkable debut novel. Ratner's writing is beautiful and masterful. This book is an absolute treat.
jgp47 More than 1 year ago
Jump Artist is not a book that can be read passively. Beginning with the author's note, the reader is faced with drama, pain, love, humor, and psychology. I didn't want it to end. As I closed the book, I went directly to the computor to learn more about Halsman. Ratner was the first person to reveal the portion of Halsman's life that influenced his artistry as a photographer. Ratner captured Halsman's portrait through words. I can't wait to discuss this at our next book club.