Monday, May 11, 2009

simon callow's review of michael kustow's memoir

The Guardian's Saturday Review has a wonderful review by actor Simon Callow of the writer, and theatre and TV producer, Michael Kustow's memoir 'In Search of Jerusalem', published in the UK by Oberon Books. Callow writes: "Kustow is one of the great articulators of his generation, instantly eloquent, with an astonishingly well-stocked brain and an uncommon power of empathy and penetration, which enable him to respond to what he encounters with a capacious judiciousness."

Callow describes Kustow's passage through a dark period of self-examination which prefigured struggles with cancer and heart disease. Kustow was "'growing weary of all the things I knew ... restless with well-worn words and in general discontented with the familiar.'

"Some of this is precipitated by the death of his mother, the splendid Sadie, and his consequent immersion in the world of religious rituals and family dramas, not least his brothers' and sister's resentment of his very public stand against Israel's military activities. He wrestles with the whole question of his Jewishness - what does it mean to him, to what extent is Jewishness central to his identity, how properly Jewish is Israel's behaviour? Who is he, he wants to know, and the unsettling spectre of inauthenticity increasingly torments him. From childhood, he has struggled with the question: at home, at school, at Oxford, in the kibbutz. For a while he thinks perhaps he should be French. He goes to Lyons and enlists in Roger Planchon's Théâtre Nationale Populaire, but fails to get into the Three Musketeers company for the part of the only Englishman in the show.

"So when, after Sadie's death, his friend and father figure Peter Brook suggests to him that he go to India, it is partly in the hope of another self-reinvention, but also out of the nagging conviction that something is missing in his life..."

Kustow contributed a chapter to the book 'A Time to Speak Out' prepared by Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) and published by Verso late last year. In that essay he praised the vigorous “alternative” tradition in which the best in Jewish culture has been produced by “Bad Boys and Bad Girls” (such as Harold Pinter, Hannah Arendt, Arthur Miller and Rosa Luxemburg) and not by unthinking solidarity with “the community”. Referring to the IJV statement of principles, Kustow said: “I do my best to keep company with the agitators and affronters, which is another reason why I signed this statement.”

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