Austria, 1928. A murder trial sends shockwaves across Europe. An unknown young man named Philippe Halsman stands unjustly accused of killing his father. Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud and Thomas Mann are moved to speak out on his behalf. But as he fights to prove his innocence, a whole nation turns against him.
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Austin Ratner studied at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, having previously graduated from John Hopkins School of Medicine. The Jump Artist won the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature in 2010. It is his first novel.From Publishers Weekly:
In his debut, Ratner fictionalizes the story of Philippe Halsman, a renowned photographer who, as a young man in interwar Austria, had his life forever changed by an anti-Semitic kangaroo court. In the novel, œPhilipp Halsman and his father, Max, were hiking when, as Philipp looked away, Max fell off the lip of a cliff and died. The locals testified that Philipp murdered his father, whipping up an anti-Semitic frenzy. After time in prison and his banishment from Austria, Philipp attempts to build his life abroad with the burden of having been believed a murderer; only his mother and a small faction of intellectuals are convinced of his innocence. Ratner's recreation of Philipp's tortured psyche can be wearying, and Philipp's awkwardness—from his jailhouse fixations to the guilt and self-loathing that play so heavily in his life—serve to make him more of an enigma for the reader than probably intended. But, in a broader context, the story has tremendous resonance, given what had yet to come. (May)
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