The Arty Semite

Getting to Know Cartoonist Georges Wolinski

By Benjamin Ivry

  • Print
  • Share Share
wiki commons

The French Jewish cartoonist Georges Wolinski has long entertained his compatriots with drawings spoofing romance and sexuality, as well as making serious points about politics and society. In collections such as “Everything is Politics” (Tout est politique) from Les editions Temps actuels and “The Right-Wing Plan” (Le Programme de la droite) Wolinski offers merciless caricatures of the French far-right wing politician Jean-Marie Le Pen.

A memoir by his wife Maryse Wolinski out earlier this year from Les éditions du Seuil mulls over how Yiddishkeit has inspired her husband’s achievements. Entitled “George, If You Only Knew,” (Georges, si tu savais), her account traces how Wolinski was born in Tunis to Lola Bembaron, a Tunisian Jew, and Siegfried Wolinski, a Polish Jew. The latter, fleeing Europe’s pogroms, settled in Tunisia to open a wrought iron manufacturing business. In 1936 Siegfried Wolinski would be murdered by a disgruntled ex-employee, and although Georges was only a toddler at the time, he tells his wife today: “The ghost of my father has haunted me all my life.”

The younger Wolinski later sought solace in the Tunis pastry shop, Chez les nègres, owned by his maternal grandfather; he also ogled the city’s less family-friendly prostitutes’ quarter Sid Abdel Aguèche. In 1946, his surviving family moved to France, where Wolinski graduated from art school. Stationed during his French military service in Reggane, Algeria, a remote town in the Sahara Desert, Wolinski there admired poster art by the French artist of Polish Jewish origin Roland Topor, advertising a satirical magazine, “Hara-Kiri.”

Wolinski would soon become a friend and colleague of Topor in the pages of “Hara-Kiri” and subsequent publications. He also never abandoned his Jewish identity, providing knowing drawings for the French version of Dan Greenburg’s 1965 international bestseller, “How to be a Jewish Mother: a very lovely training manual.” Whatever the French-language version, “Comment devenir une mère juive en dix leçons,from Les éditions Seghers may have lost in translation, it gained immeasurably by the witty visual inspirations of Wolinski.

More recently, Wolinski collaborated on a 2007 book with the Algerian-born French attorney Pierre-Philippe Barkats, “Thanks, Hanukkah Harry” in which the title hero valiantly faces down climate change and other ecological crises. Earlier this year, The University of Melbourne hosted a tribute exhibit devoted to his early inspiration, Topor, and Wolinski himself has also become something of a modern-day classic.

Watch Wolinski in March describing his caricatures of President François Mitterrand.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Roland Topor, Maryse Wolinski, Jean-Marie Le Pen, Dan Greenburg, Georges Wolinski

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • "What I didn’t realize before my trip was that I would leave Uganda with a powerful mandate on my shoulders — almost as if I had personally left Egypt."
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.