Going home through the world. The life journey of Frederic Morton
Back in July 1939, pressured by National Socialist tyranny, a well-established Jewish family of entrepreneurs, the Mandelbaums, were forced to flee at a moment’s notice from their home city, Vienna. Now this year, 2019, marks the 80th anniversary of their expulsion. It is for this reason that “Welt&Co” has launched a retrospective to commemorate the occasion and at the same time describe the life and career of the later American bestselling author. “Welt&Co” is a cultural initiative better known by the name “Kunstraum Ewigkeitsgasse” (lent from Frederic Morton’s novel Forever Street), set at 6, Thelemangasse which in its turn was the original home address of the late writer.
Born in Vienna as Fritz Mandelbaum, after his escape from Europe he succeeded surprisingly fast in establishing himself in America under his newly adopted name, Frederic Morton. Among his most well-known works were The Rothschilds and the novel Forever Street (translated into German as Ewigkeitsgasse), which described the life of the Jewish community in Vienna at turn of the 19th to the 20th centuries. Actually, the novel Forever Street (Ewigkeitsgasse) happened to be the first book that was handed out free of charge by the City of Vienna in 1996 in the course of its campaign “Eine Stadt, ein Buch” (“A city, a book”), of which 100,000 copies were printed for this purpose.
For quite some years, Frederic Morton remained closely connected to the “Welt&Co” cultural initiative, namely from February 2007 through to his death in Vienna in 2015. Owing to these close ties we would like to take on the task to thematize the biography of this highly renowned author in exile under the title “Zeitprägungen” (“Embossings of time”).
It is not random that May 10th was chosen as the launch for the cultural project since this coincides with the beginning of the Nazi book burnings back in 1933, during the so-called Third Reich. The date thus acts as a starting point to take a “look back and ahead” (“Blick zurück nach vorne”).
As an US American author in exile, Frederic Morton himself was highly committed to humanist and social concerns. It is our endeavor to portray this life-long engagement of his in the “Zeitprägungen” project and exhibition. Throughout his life, Frederic Morton maintained his ties with Austria, with Vienna and, in particular, with his Viennese home district, Hernals. At no time was his reflection of the past accusatory or belligerent in nature. Rather, his thought was analytical and human, oftentimes revealing the roots of social change painfully.
The cultural project “Zeitprägungen” invites artists, companions as well as representatives from the public sector who were closely connected to Frederic Morton over the years, to “Kunstraum Ewigkeitsgasse”: to focus on the subjects of flight, home, expulsion, alienation and more using an artistic approach while simultaneously outlining their personal relationship to the man and author Frederic Morton.
By launching this cultural project, “Welt&Co” is realizing one of its outspoken artistic concerns, namely, to pay homage to the rich Jewish cultural heritage of Vienna with a view to preserving it for the future. There is hardly a more authentic venue than this that can present itself as a minute treasure of Austrian contemporary history, manifesting respect and mutual understanding.
Frederic Morton had a truly eventful life. With his novel Forever Street, he wrote a most touching epitaph for his home town Wien, and “his” district, Hernals, in particular. In doing so, he connected two worlds, ranging from the childhood of Fritz Mandelbaum to the later life of the author Frederic Morton.
The venue of the cultural project is the address of “Kunstraum Ewigkeitsgasse” right next to the former metal work factory of the Mandelbaum family, at 6, Thelemangasse in Wien-Hernals. On top of various events, a retrospective exhibition will be showing in “Kunstraum Ewigkeitsgasse” from May 10th through to October 5th this year.