Arts & Culture

Ohm Vey: Reissue Of The Kama Sutra Of Haggadot Hits The Spot For Visual Learners

The Szyk haggadah might be the coolest looking one ever. Read More

By / April 21, 2011

With a lively visual embrace of the ancient traditions of the haggadah as well as an interactive relationship with his contemporary happenings as an artist and (immigrating) Jew, Szyk’s masterpiece has without surprise been given its due attention this year in its affordable re-release.

It might be what propelled the Bhagavad Gita or the Kama Sutra through time as widely consumed, accessible spiritual books: when artists took to carving its scenes in stone, illustrating the books in vibrant Indian inks in detail, one might not have been able to, or wanted to read the tomes, but with the added imagery, who could help but stare?

The feeling is echoed in digesting Art Szyk’s epically illustrious haggadah that will renew your interest in the annually regurgitated plot line of the season. The experience is an amalgamation of that of a child before a gargantuan volume of Richard Scarry for hours, plus a stroll through a Krishna temple, but Jewish. Even the rich typography is embraced as a key design element, like the vocalist whose lyrics fold effortlessly into the musical mix.

Szyk’s background as a political illustrator is reflected in the hyper realist imagery, with each vibrant panel charged with the passion of the oppressed people–inspired by a very Hitler Germany and manifest in the plight of the Israelites. Originally constructed in the 30s, elements of Nazism had done osmosis into the illustrations in the forms of swastikas, Goebbels, and the Fuhrer (none of which passed through the international editing process in 1940, let alone in 2011).

This publication is expected to have an interminable lifespan, Szyk having magically hit upon something of the human condition in its construction, conjoining spiritual, political, and aesthetic positions as harmoniously as Vātsyāyana.