The Smallest Objective by Sharon Kirsch
Winner of the 2021 Vine Award for Canadian Jewish Literature
The Smallest Objective (New Star Books), Sharon Kirsch’s Montreal memoir, has won a Vine Award for Canadian Jewish Literature (History). The Vine Awards is an annual national program that honours both the best Canadian Jewish writers and non-Jewish Canadian authors who deal with Jewish subjects. The memoir offers a vantage point on 20th century Montreal and its Jewish history via three personalities, each representing a different generation of the immigrant experience: a celebrated rogue turned raconteur, a botanist, and a young woman seized with newfound opportunities.
The 2021 jury—Zelda Abramson, Nathan Adler and Naomi K. Lewis—wrote the following:
In the wake of her mother’s illness, and driven by lore of hidden treasure, Kirsch excavates history from ephemera found in her parent’s home. “… With poetic prose, and a proclivity for listing of things, Kirsch has a microscopic attention to detail that matches the theme of objects put under scrutiny to divine secrets. This writing has a way of hinting at the ineffable and drawing synaptic connections that reveal a real playfulness and love of words … There are themes of memory and forgetting, loss and lost things, and of course the search for treasure… ”
The quest for buried ‘Kirsch’ treasure is the starting point of this family history; Kirsch’s grandfather’s microscope, with its smallest objective lens, furnished the book with its title. “No one could be more surprised that I wrote this book than I was. Throughout my adolescence and early adulthood my mother made strenuous attempts to verse me in what little she knew of our family history. But to use the words of my great uncle Jockey Fleming—a notorious hustler and gagman of mid-century Montreal, and a central character in this memoir—I ‘played the ignore’ for my mother,” said Kirsch. “When I eventually wanted to hear her stories, I could no longer tease them out because my mother had lost her memory. Now I can say ‘Mum, I’m listening’ and not least because of this award, others are too.”
Author’s website: sharonkirsch.com.