Additional Book Information
Series: New York Review Books
Publication Date: November 6, 2018
Almost NothingThe 20th Century Art and Life of Józef Czapski
Eric Karpeles, also a painter, reveals Czapski’s full complexity, pulling together all the threads of this remarkable life.
Józef Czapski was a beautiful human being, courageous, noble but also hard-working; occasionally a soldier, journalist, diarist, always writing, drawing, always with a sketchbook in hand, always ready to help friends and strangers. In his person high intelligence and remarkable artistic talent met with an active, almost naive goodness—a rather rare combination, as we know. Almost Nothing reads at times like a political novel—when this delicate painter speaks to high-ranking Stalin’s henchmen—or like “roman de l’artiste” when he talks with Anna Akhmatova in Tashkent. Eric Karpeles’ generous, fantastically researched book renders justice to this exceptional figure and to the painful, monstrously brutal historical background against which Czapski’s life has to be measured.
Józef Czapski’s essays on Proust, written in a Soviet prison camp: these proved the unlikely impetus to Eric Karpeles’s remarkable biography of the Polish painter and writer, who bore witness to twentieth- century history in its peculiarly brutal Polish incarnation. Karpeles’s own gifts as critic and artist produce the kind of book that Czapski himself might well have applauded. His eloquence on the paintings is unmatched. The passion, intelligence, and commitment he brings to his task should finally give Czapski the English-language audience he so richly deserves.