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The White Crucifixion
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Explores how Marc Chagall’s life, painting and Jewish experience in the twentieth century are interlinked
Sample PassagesPart II: Paris, 1913 - The Studio
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The novel is told from Marc Chagall’s point of view and in it he reflects back on his life and the tumultuous events of the twentieth century that shaped his life and his work
The White Crucifixion starts with Chagall’s difficult birth in Vitebsk 1887, in the present-day Belarus, and tells the surprising story of how the eldest son of a herring schlepper became enrolled in art school where he quickly gained a reputation as ‘Moyshe, the painting wonder’.
The novel paints a vivid picture of a Russian town divided by belief and wealth, rumours of pogroms never far away, yet bustling with talented young artists.
In 1913 Chagall relished the opportunity to move to Paris to take up residence in the artist colony ‘The Hive’ (La Ruche). The Yiddish-speaking artists (Ėcole Juive) living there were all poor. The Hive had no electric light, or running water and yet many of its artists were to become famous, among them Amedeo Modigliani, Chaim Soutine and Osip Zadkine.
The novel vividly portrays the dynamics of an artist colony, its pettiness, friendships and the constant battle to find the peace and quiet to work.
When Chagall’s great love Bella moves into the Hive, he muses: Yes, I am in love, yes I am happy, but I am and I remain an artist, a painter, first and foremost. I cannot lose the totality of myself in Bella because something of me must always remain outside and aloof from anything which is not my art.
In 1914 Chagall and his wife Bella made what was supposed to be a fleeting visit to his beloved Vitebsk, only to be trapped there by the outbreak of the First World War, the subsequent Russian revolution and the establishment of the communist regime which was increasingly hostile towards artists like Chagall.
Yet, Chagall kept on painting, and the novel provides a fascinating account of what inspired some of his greatest work. He eventually managed to return to France, only to be thwarted by another world war which proved disastrous for the people he knew in Vitebsk, the people in his paintings, including his uncle Neuch, the original ‘fiddler on the roof’.
The White Crucifixion is a fictionalised account of the roller-coaster life in terrible times of one of the most enigmatic artists of the twentieth century.
Enjoy these pictures from the launch party at the Artworkers Guild
Enjoy Artist’s White Crucifixion Made a Marc on Novelist a profile of Michael Dean which was publishing in the Jewish Telegraph on 19 January 2018.
‘The priority for me is always to write a novel but at the same time stay true to real life.’ – From an interview with Michael Dean in The Gazette
The White Crucifixion was published on 22 February 2018. For more information or review copies please contact the publisher: firstname.lastname@example.org, +44(0)7792611929.
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Number of pages: 256
Find out more about the author
Number of pages: 256
Find out more about the author
What was said about The White Crucifixion
‘I really loved this book, for the story, for the characters, but above all for teaching me about a life and an era I didn’t know before. I will seek out the author’s other novels and would recommend this one wholeheartedly to book groups. 5/5’ – Rebecca Kershaw on Nudge
‘Readers who enjoy art and history will appreciate this lively account of the Bohemian existence. It is a good choice for book groups as well. Public libraries and synagogue libraries collecting fiction should consider it.’ – Barbara Bibel AJL Reviews
‘Good news for fans of the brilliant but enigmatic artist, Marc Chagall: this impeccably-researched novel will illuminate the dark corners of his turbulent life.’ – Jane Harris, author of Gillespie and I & Sugar Money
‘Dean’s shimmering palette of prose brings the world and work of Chagall to vivid, engrossing life.’ – E.M. Powell, author of the Fifth Knight Medieval Thriller Series
‘Wonderfully vivid depiction of Marc Chagall's life and work’
‘Brilliantly and evocatively written’ – Patricia O’Reilly, author of The Interview
‘The White Crucifixion splendidly evokes the long life and exuberant imagery of the artist Marc Chagall, from childhood poverty in Russia through studies and friendships in the Paris of Modigliani and Apollinaire, and the dream-like return to his homeland, love, marriage and dreadful danger. Surreally accompanied by the Prophet Elijah we see him struggle for acceptance while great events change the world he lived in. A portrait of a century of upheaval and a life full of courage and colour.’ – Jenny Barden, author of The Lost Duchess
‘The story is beautifully subjective, it puts us right in puddle of neuroses and emotion that is the artist. Which is wonderful, because this book is always heartfelt and never dry. It doesn’t just tell us what happened, it shows us what it feels like. I loved that. It’s so evocative of time and place. And it’s also often very funny.’ – Hermione Flavia on CravenWild
‘I initially felt embarrassed as a voyeur but I was so enthralled with the experience I lost myself. The character descriptions and choice of content were impeccable.’ – Bridget Davis
‘This fictional biography of Marc Chagall is written in a style that mimics his paintings, full of life, vitality, and enmeshed in the Jewish tradition. A peak at some of his fellow painters and sculptors added to the intrigue.’ – Snash
‘It shows us a man totally devoted to his genius and unalterable in his choice of colours. It's a book that makes you pause for a while. ’ – Vienna Max
‘Michael Dean's obvious passion for his subjects, meticulous research and ability to tell a darn good story makes for a first class reading experience.’ – Helen on goodreads
‘It succeeds as an evocative, layered story of one man’s drive to describe his world through art. Its subject isn’t just about the painter and his work but an insight into Jewish history through the lens of Chagall’s subjects – often based on Jewish tales and proverbs – and how the Russian Revolution, initially seen as a positive, anti-oppressive move, became another means of oppression.’ – Emma Lee on her blog
‘With a vibrant sense of time and two places, this is an entrancing vision of the lives of Chagall and other artists whose creative drive was fuelled by political turbulence and persecution, personal hardship and tragedy. Lovers of art and history will find it fascinating.’ – Isabel Costello on her blog the Literary Sofa
‘For Chagall enthusiasts, The White Crucifixion: A novel about Marc Chagall may be exactly what they have longed for and, knowing about his life, will be able to differentiate fiction and fact. And for those who haven’t heard of him, are indifferent to him or don’t like art, it’s a lively read: intriguing in parts, interesting in others, and Michael Dean′s expert writing is full of colour.’ – John Park on his blog Words Across Time
‘I found this such an interesting historical novel. I learned a lot about Chagall’s art.’ – Lizzy's Literary Life
‘I loved getting to know Marc Chagall through this book – learning about the personal so that we could better understand his passion. Michael Dean has written a beautiful novel chock full of emotion, history, and creativity – I loved it!’ – Nadia on her blog A Bookish Way of Life
‘This novel demonstrates considerable skill in uniting ‘large canvas’ political events of the early 20th century with the intimate scale of individual experience and creative endeavour.
Lovers of art and history will find it fascinating and any ‘creative’ will find something to relate to in this rich and colourful story.’ – Isabel Costello on the Literary Sofa
‘I found the story is superbly written and it flows very smoothly which makes it a great pleasure to read. In fact at times I found it hard to put down!’ – Sara Boorman in a second review on nudge-book
‘The writing combines the first person narrative with the historical detail and loving descriptions of places and people, giving Chagall a unique and distinctive voice and turning him into a real person, with defects and qualities, with his pettiness and his peculiar sense of humour. Although we might not like him or fully understand him, we get to walk in his shoes and to share in his sense of wonder and in his urgency to create.’ – Olga on her booklikes blog
‘The book will be of interest to anyone wishing to learn about Chagall and what inspired some of his greatest work.
It mirrors its subject: hypersensitive, emotional, fearful – he wore make-up in Paris – and only at ease when painting.’ – Alan Fisk for the Historical Novel Society