The Unraveling Jew, Shir Cohen. London

It’s the first time we’ve had proper snow in London since I got here, and so today I am observing the ancient Jerusalem tradition of Snow Holiday. Luckily, yesterday I was able to finish the lately tapestry I have been working on, which is what I wanted to share today:

The Operated Jew, written by the German physician Oskar Panizza and published in 1893, is a satirical antisemitic story. I’ve heard it mentioned briefly ages ago by artist Roey Rosen, and it has lived in my mind ever since.
As far as I cuold find, it was never translated into English, and so I went on to Project Gutenberg with my broked German and struggled with it paragraph by paragraph. It’s told by a friend of the main character, Isaac Faitel Stern, an immensly wealthy Jewish university student.
Isaac is a physical mess: He is bow-legged, his spine is crooked, he is unfathomably ugly. His description takes up this first third of the story. The second third focuses on Isaac’s wish and actions in order to become Aryan: With the help of doctors his bones are broken and restructured. he dyes his hair, receive speech treatments that prohibit him from spending time with his family, and to fix his soul, even receives blood transfusions from Aryan maidens.
As soemeone whose bones are all wrong, this was highly relatable. In general, I temd to be attracted and identify with racist cartoons. This is hightened by the pandemic, which really took the ableist, eugenicist language out of some people, even those generally considered allies.
This tespestry focuses on the last scene of the story: Isaac marries an Aryan gil through bribery and manipulation. During the wedding feast he becomes drunk and horny, and reminisces about his time studying Torah as a child. This causes him to quite literally unravel: His stitches come out, his bones return to their original places, and even his hair dye somehow fails him.
As an othered person in society, especially when the hobbies and employment I have chosed for myself are overwhelmingly white and bourgeoisie, the fear of unraveling can be real. I’m lucky enough to currently be in an environment that celebrates it, but this will never always be the case.
My warp broke several times during the work. It’s annoying, but an easy fix. I kept it broken in several places, where it felt right. Sometimes you really do feel as if your stomach might split and reveal everything.

However, I am a great believer in the tradition of a happy epilogue, so today I offer musically a very sweet comedy by Pergolesi. La Serva Padrona is considered one of the first classical comedies in opera, and a hotly debate work at its time. I like it because I think it’s a good love story, and probably one of the funnier pieces of music I know.

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