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Almost Nothing: The 20th-Century Art and Life of Józef Czapski by Eric Karpeles

Almost Nothing: The 20th-Century Art and Life of Józef Czapski

Almost Nothing: The 20th-Century Art and Life of Józef Czapski by Eric Karpeles
Paperback
Nov 06, 2018 | 496 Pages
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    Nov 06, 2018 | 496 Pages

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    Nov 06, 2018 | 496 Pages

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Praise

“Engaging life of a little-known artist and writer who was on hand for some of the 20th century’s major events….A central episode in Czapski’s life was his internment in Russia before being allowed to go to British territory, which he recounts in Inhuman Land (just published, also by NYRB); Karpeles sheds abundant light on that episode, giving us a nuanced portrait of a man of parts. A Zelig-like figure, Czapski is, by Karpeles’ account, ‘largely unknown to American readers and artists.’ This fine biography serves as a useful corrective.” —Kirkus, starred review

“Józef Czapski was a soldier, diplomat, aristocrat, writer, intellectual, and, down to the tips of his fingers, an artist. Miraculously he has found a biographer able to grasp him on his own terms. Eric Karpeles’s engrossing book is part biography, part intellectual history, part personal memoir—and finally (and this is the miraculous part) a confrontation across time and across canvas of one artist with another. He has written a beautiful, essential book.” —Mark Danner
 
Almost Nothing is an amazing and completely unexpected achievement. It’s a story with epic sweep that is apt to put you in mind of War and Peace and Doctor Zhivago. And, as it braids together the brilliance and cruelty of the twentieth century, it is told with a steadiness of vision that is breathtaking. A book you will want to get your hands on.” —Robert Hass

“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.” —Adam Zagajewski
“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.” —Clare Cavanagh

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