But I’m not joking. If my art played no part in my family’s life, their lives and their achievements greatly influenced my art. – from My Life, by Marc Chagall
My Life, by Marc Chagall; Dorothy Williams, translator (London, England: Peter Own Publishers, 2003; first French translation in 1932; first English translation in 1965)
Marc Chagall (1887-1985) completed My Life in 1922, but it wasn't published until 1932. Containing fifty illustrations by the artist, Chagall’s memoir is reminiscent of his art, at once whimsical, dreamy, and touching. Of particular interest, are Chagall’s memories of his family’s “deep roots in Jewish tradition,” his ties to his homeland, and his entry into the Paris art world.
However, when my grandfather, with the long, black beard, died in all honor, my father, for a few roubles, bought another place.
In that neighborhood, no longer near an insane asylum as at Pestkowatik. All about us, churches, fences, shops, synagogues – simple and eternal, like the buildings in the frescoes of Giotto.
Around me come and go, turn and turn, or just trot along, all sorts of Jews, old and young, Javitches and Bejlines. A beggar runs towards his house, a rich man goes home. The cheder boy runs home. Papa goes home.
In those days there was no cinema.
People went home or to the shop. That is what I remember after my trough.
I say nothing of the sky, of the stars of my childhood.
They are my stars, my sweet stars; they accompany me to school and wait for me on the street till I return. Poor dears, forgive me. I have left you alone on such a dizzy height!
My town, sad and gay!
As a boy, I used to watch you from our doorstep, childishly. To a child’s eyes you were clear. When the walls cut off my view, I climbed up on a little post. If then I still could not see you, I climbed up on the roof. Why not? My grandfather used to climb up there too.
And I gazed at you as much as I pleased.
Here, in Pokrowskaja Street, I was born a second time. – from My Life, by Marc Chagall