I have a soft spot for stories about unlikely friendships, because they almost always, in their way, end up being love stories. One way to read our new issue, Omer Friedlander’s “The Miniaturist,” is as a love story.
Esther and Adinah are two young girls who meet in 1950, in the newly formed State of Israel, when their families are forced to move into the Ma’abara immigration absorption camp. Living, suddenly, in a community of tents, among thousands of relocated individuals, the girls discover they both share a passion: drawing. Adinah’s ancestors were Jewish text illustrators—known as “miniaturists”—from Catalonia who were expelled in 1492 for not converting. Esther’s ancestors were miniaturists, as well, but conversos, and as she begins to demonstrate her own artistic talent, there are those in Ma’abara who believe she’s the reincarnation of the most famous miniaturist of all—Nissim ben-Tzemach Albarjeloni.
When the girls become obsessed with well-known photographer Shmuel Sassoon, another resident of the camp, and he, in turn, takes an interest in Esther’s talent and her potential status as the reincarnated master illustrator, a rivalry is seeded that will affect Adinah’s behavior and cause her to carry Esther with her for the rest of her life.
In “The Miniaturist,” Omer Friedlander has created a beautiful and conflicted portrait of a friendship that cannot last, and yet lasts. It’s a story of dispossession and disembodiment, and it’s a story of love. We’re delighted to present it to you.