Posted by: Lisa Hill | April 16, 2018

Book Launch: The Storyteller, Selected Stories (2018) by Serge Liberman

For someone who rarely ventures out to a book launch, I seem to have been to a few lately!

Last night I collected my good friend Ros Collins (author of Solly’s Girl) from her place and together with her son Dan, we braved the cold and rain to attend a rather special launch at the Kadimah Jewish Cultural Centre in Elsternwick.  Hosted by Louis de Vries and Anna Rosner Blay from Hybrid Publishing, the event featured MC Renata Singer and the speakers Emeritus Professor Richard Freadman from Latrobe University; the poet and author Alex Skovron; and writer, novelist, storyteller and human rights advocate Arnold Zable.  But in the absence of the author and well-known Jewish identity Serge Liberman OAM, was his widow Anna Mow who spoke movingly of her life with this amazing man.

The book, The Storyteller, Selected Stories is a collection harvested from his oeuvre during the last years of Serge Liberman’s life, a feat achieved despite having been diagnosed with motor neurone disease.  It was accomplished from a hospital bed with the help of good friends – Alex Skovron and Richard Freadman.  To quote from Alex Skovron’s obituary in The Age:

Serge was looking forward to the publication of his final book, a selection of nearly 30 of some of his finest stories under the title The Storyteller […] He took an active role in choosing the stories and discussing editorial and other aspects of the project.

On one occasion he asked me what would happen if he died before the book came out. I replied: “Don’t!” – and added that it would be vastly preferable to launch the book before we launched him into eternity.

Serge Liberman died in December 2017 so it was not to be, but last night his friends, family and admirers were out in force to launch the book notwithstanding.  Richard Freadman talked about Liberman’s legacy, saying that Liberman outgrew coming to prominence as an ‘ethnic writer’ in the 1980s and 1990s, because in his fiction he created worlds that anyone can inhabit, bringing his readers overlapping and colliding worlds with a metaphysical backdrop.  What he meant by that was that stories can travel back and forth from the realism of secular modernity to the folkloric and magical world of the shletl – a kind of magic realism outside the heedless flow of chronological time.  

Freadman said that Liberman was a compassionate humanist whose stories can be seen through these filters:

  • making sense of the Holocaust;
  • a doctor confronting his patients, sometimes with unpalatable truths;
  • migrants experiencing new vistas and the pain of dislocation; and
  • the tension between first generation Jews and their children.

The audience was spellbound by the readings, and the applause was warm.  Alex Skovron read ‘Music’ and Arnold Zable read ‘The House Behind Drawn Curtains’.  I’m looking forward to reading more of these stories in due course.

You can buy the book from Fishpond: The Storyteller: Selected Stories or the Hybrid Publishing website. or good bookshops everywhere.


  1. I’m glad you braved the weather to come to the launch – a very special occasion.


    • It was indeed. It was a privilege to be there:)


  2. Sounds like a wonderful launch and, with Alex Skovron and Arnold Zable reading, an entertaining one. I’m glad you braved the rain and cold to bring us this account of the night. Thank you!


    • Actually I’m not really complaining about the weather: we have had so very little rain over the summer, we are pleased to hear the rain on the roof and the tanks filling up:)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you, Lisa, for your intrepid reporting. I only wish I could have been there. Long live compassionate humanists. I envy you the filling tanks, by the way.


    • Hi Diana, nice to hear from you and I hope Chaconne is doing well:)
      I don’t think any of them are anywhere near full, but not full is better than empty!


  4. It’s not easy being a quiet book in a noisy world. Actually Chaconne is shaping up to be a good choice for book groups. Eleanor seems to provoke polarised responses, which I have to say I didn’t expect! Silly me…

    Thank you for all you do for readers and writers.


    • Quiet books often have the longest shelf life IMO. It takes word of mouth so it’s good that book groups are enjoying it, and even better that it polarises – though I wouldn’t have expected that either. I’m guessing some readers would want to give her a good shake? (But that’s how women so often were back in those days!)


      • Not just those days, Lisa. I could tell you a few toe-curling tales of contemporary female panic! You may well be right about quiet books…


        • Maybe that’s your next book?


  5. […] have been reading these stories by Serge Liberman OAM (1942-2017) on and off ever since the book launch last year, but I am clearing the decks of books received for review in 2018 and it’s time to […]


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