The Artist Accused
A dark chapter in photographer Philippe Halsman's life.
Austin Ratner’s novel The Jump Artist (Bellvue Literary Press) is based on little-recalled events that took place earlier in Halsman’s life, when his father died on a hiking trip through Austria and, in an unbelievable miscarriage of justice, Halsman was accused and convicted of the crime. In what was called The Austrian Dreyfus Affair, influential intellectuals (including Einstein) were able to overcome the virulently hostile anti-Semitism of that time and place to secure Halsman’s freedom and exoneration. Ratner’s rendition vividly depicts his character’s ordeal and amazing recovery from the trauma of the event.
Charles Baxter, whose praise should go a long way to helping readers take up this tome, effuses: This is a book 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.