Jewish culture festival: cartoonist Rutu Modan on her life

In novel 'The property' she investigates her roots in Poland

25 July, 11:34

    (ANSAmed) - ROME, JULY 25 - Some still ask her: 'Shouldn't cartoons make you laugh?'. Rutu Moda, born in 1966, an Israeli from Tel Aviv, is one of the world's most famous cartoonists with work published by the New York Times, New Yorker and Le Monde. Winner of many awards, she became the star of politically engaged cartoons in 2007 with her first graphic novel Exit Wounds. She is currently in Rome for the Festival of Jewish culture and literature where she presented her latest novel The Property.

    'It took me four years to make it', she told ANSAmed. 'Six months of research and three and a half years to write and design it'.

    Modan is like an artisan who knows her subject matter and is satisfied with nothing less than perfection. 'To make my illustrations more real, more credible, I decided to use actors who, frame after frame, acted for the book. I selected them, dressed, directed and photographed them myself. And given that a bit of exaggeration works well in comic strips, I ask them to act as if they were in a silent movie'.

    The result is a small masterpiece which tells the story of a family similar in many ways to the author's family.

    'The Property talks about an Israeli young woman, Mika and about Regina, her grandmother. The two leave together from Israel to Poland, the country where Regina was born and which she was forced to leave due to the anti-Semitic persecution.

    They are on a mission - at least on the surface - to claim back family property seized by the Nazis and then nationalized by the Communists. But the grandmother has a secret objective...', said Modan. 'Like Regina, my grandma was born in Poland and she too, after fleeing the country, did not want to go back. She called it 'the great cemetery', a term also used by the grandmother in my book. I never heard about Poland and when I decided to write the book the first thing I did was to go on Wikipedia and read about it'.

    But the similarities don't end here: 'My family, like many others, has always talked about property left behind. Polish Jews who survived the Holocaust did not have homes to go back to: everything had been destroyed or nationalized by the Communists. There was a great difference from what happened in France or Italy: for example, Primo Levi talks in one of his books about a 'house' to go back to'. The theme of 'property' sees the light here: 'After studying for the book I discovered this is a very sensitive political issue both in Poland and Israel. And most of all I realized the evident analogy between the stories of Polish Jews and Palestinians who still have the keys of homes seized from them a long time ago'.

    However, the artist noted, 'it would not be correct to define The Property a political book - at least not as a first instance. I wanted to tell the story of a family which can reach out to everyone: Japanese, Koreans, Italians'. (ANSAmed)
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