Painted in Words

Painted in Words

A Memoir
Samuel S Bak, edited by Samuel S Bak, foreword by Amos Oz
Distribution: World
Publication date: 09/27/2001
Format: Hardback 55 color photos
ISBN: 978-0-253-34048-1
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At my first sight of a painting by Samuel Bak, I had the keen sense that he was telling me stories with his brush. Now that at long last he has written this book, I find it no wonder that he has painted with his pen.... Among the tens and hundreds of books I have read about the pre-Shoah and post-Shoah period... Bak’s book is unique. Despite being suffused with a sense of loss, horror, degradation, and death, it is ultimately a sanguine, funny book, full of the love of life, rocking with an almost cathartic joy. At times I found myself bursting out laughing... a marvelous ode, a colorful hymn to the forces of life, love, creation, and the joys of the senses. —From the Foreword by Amos Oz

In Painted in Words internationally renowned artist Samuel Bak sets aside his brushes to narrate the stories of his life—as a child in Nazi-occupied Vilna, as a youth in European refugee camps, and as a maturing artist in Israel, France, Italy, Switzerland, and the United States. With gentle humor, the child prodigy of the faraway past and the accomplished artist of today engage in a spirited dialogue from which emerges a self-portrait of "The Artist as a Young—and middle-aged and aging—Survivor." The brilliance, vision, and virtuosity that Bak brings to his painting are equally in evidence in his writing. This deeply touching work is an important contribution to Holocaust literature and art history.

Author Bio

Samuel Bak, born in Vilna in 1933, had the first exhibition of his drawings at the age of nine in the Vilna ghetto. Escaping after its destruction, he emigrated to Israel, where he studied at the Bezalel Art School in Jerusalem. In an artistic career of over forty years he has had numerous exhibitions in museums and galleries throughout Israel, Europe, and the United States. Since 1993 he has lived in the Boston area with his wife, Josée.

Bak's other publications include Landscapes of Jewish Experience; Chess as Metaphor in the Art of Samuel Bak; The Game Continues: Chess in the Art of Samuel Bak; and The Past Continues.


“"Painted in Words is a masterpiece, miles above hundreds of Holocaust memoirs, with an extraordinary diversity of its contents and astonishing insights into the soul of a child. A treat to read!" —Vera Laska, Associate Editor, New England Journal of History In Painted in Words, internationally renowned Holocaust artist Samuel Bak sets aside his brushes to narrate the stories of his life—as a child in Nazi-occupied Vilna, as a youth in European refugee camps, and as a maturing artist in Israel, France, Italy, Switzerland, and the United States. Lovingly, he evokes his departed parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, along with their households and employees, to create a vital gallery of dramatic, lyrical, epic, and sometimes absurd heroes. ”

“ Painter Bak was born in Vilna (now Vilnius), Lithuania, in 1933. As a child, he witnessed the occupation of his country by Russian troops at the outbreak of WW II, followed in 1941 by the murderous invasion of Nazi troops. He and his family shared the fate of the Jewish community of this vibrant center, sometimes called the Jerusalem of Lithuania. Uprooted from his home, sequestered in a ghetto, Bak and his parents were eventually transferred to a labor camp. His father was killed in the final days of the war. He and his strong-willed and resourceful mother, to whom he remained deeply attached, were able at the end of the war to make their way to a displaced persons camp in Bavaria, and then, in 1948, to the newly established State of Israel. He seems not to have been happy there, and since 1993, lives near Boston. Bak as a child showed precocious artistic talent and was encouraged by his parents to develop his gifts. About his art, characterized since the mid 1960s by a kind of fantastic realism saturated with symbols and reminiscences of the Shoah, he is regrettably more circumspect. A valuable addition to the literature of the Holocaust. General readers; lower—division undergraduates through faculty.September 2002”
 — W. Cahn, emeritus, Yale University

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Table of Contents

Preliminary Table of Contents:

The following is a list of chapter titles. The book itself doesn't have a Table of Contents.

Foreword: Painted in Words, Narrated in Colors and Light, by Amos Oz

Chapter One The Pinkas
Chapter Two How All This Writing Began
Chapter Three Aunt Yetta's Magic
Chapter Four On Father's Side: The Baks
Chapter Five Sailing on Rachel's Wet Floor
Chapter Six Another Realm: Her Highness Xenia
Chapter Seven Three Stories in Search of My Father
Chapter Eight On Mother's Side: The Yochels and the Nadels
Chapter Nine Many Loves and a Deep Friendship
Chapter Ten Events Follow Events
Chapter Eleven Mother's Tutoring
Chapter Twelve What, Now, and When: On My Art and Myself
Chapter Thirteen Closure