The Jump Artist (Paperback)
Bellevue Literary Press, 9781934137154, 252pp.
Publication Date: May 1, 2009
Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature
"A remarkable work . . . that] documents a triumph of the human spirit over tremendous adversity."--Harper's
"This elegantly-written tribute makes as beautiful a use of the darkness and light of one man's life as a Halsman photograph of a pretty young woman."--GQ
"Ratner weaves a psychologically arresting fiction from these facts, imagining the creep of Nazism in 1928 Europe."--Cleveland Plain Dealer
"A beautifully scrupulous, intricately detailed novel about joy and despair, anti-Semitism and assimilation, and like a great photograph, it seems to miss nothing, and to catch its subject in all his complexity."--Charles Baxter
Philippe Halsman is famous for his photographs of celebrities jumping in the air, for putting Marilyn Monroe (among countless others) on the cover of Life Magazine, and for his bizarre collaborations with surrealist Salvador Dali ("Dali Atomicus," Dali's Mustache). What is not well known is his role in the "Austrian Dreyfus Affair," which rocked Europe in the years leading up to WWII. While hiking in the Tyrolean Alps, Philippe's father was brutally murdered when Philippe went ahead on the trail. The year was 1928, Nazism was on the rise and Philippe, a Jewish 22 year old from Latvia, was charged with the murder. He spent several years in an Austrian prison and the trial became a public scandal that pitted many prominent intellectuals, including Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud, against the rising tide of fascism.
The Jump Artist is evocative psychological fiction based on this true story. Austin Ratner has extensively researched Halsman's life and tells the extraordinary tale of a man who transforms himself from a victim of rampant anti-Semitism into a purveyor of the marvelous.