Eva Zeisel’s New e-book
Eva Zeisel, the beloved industrial designer of ceramics, whose sensual forms were among the first to define a more organic modern aesthetic, once wrote at the ripe age of 98, “Whether we make things or they just happen, whether we grow them or form them, things speak to us.” And she held that all things conveyed these unspoken languages, between user and object, and between the object and its maker.
For Zeisel, however, her most protracted inner dialogue was kept at arm’s length for a good deal of her beautifully creative life. Her other story, lesser told and deeply personal, has finally seen the light of day in the nebulous form of a new e-book, Eva Zeisel: A Soviet Prison Memoir, independently published last month by her daughter. Who might have thought that behind one of the twentieth century’s most eccentric, fearless, and playful artists is a near-death story of solitary confinement in a dreadful prison cell at Bolshoi Dom? And all of it, apparently, the result of what seemed a harmless crush that an engineer at the Lomonosov Porcelain Factory felt toward her. No more than an acquainted colleague, this fellow was arrested before her, and under pressure himself, he accused her of plotting to kill Stalin. He was later shot, and the true story would take decades to unravel. Aspects of her harrowing tale were captured in the celebrated modern novel first published in 1941, Darkness at Noon, by Arthur Koestler, her first love; however, her full story told in her own words is only now being presented, posthumously, just three months after her passing last December.
It somehow seems fitting that this experience, which tormented her for so many years though she never let it prevail, is not fixed in print. Leave it to Zeisel, at age 105, to endlessly push boundaries by releasing her story in experimental e-book form, pure and untainted, and perfectly formless.
Eva Zeisel: A Prison Memoir, by Jean Richards is available through iTunes for iPad for $9.99 and Amazon for Kindle for $7.99. The iTunes e-book includes video clips of Zeisel’s return, at age 93, to the Russian prison where she was held and interrogated as a young woman, as well as audio clips of her recollections.
Laurie Manfra is a freelance architecture and design writer and publisher of the e-book imprint, Point Literary.