EMMA

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Cover mock-up (potential) by David Lester


In The End We Are More Than Ever Alone
(tentative title)

Internationally renowned author Helen and award-winning illustrator Eric have been thrown together by a publisher to work on a graphic novel about Emma Goldman, the feisty, early 20th century anarcha-feminist orator who lived out her final year in Toronto. That year involved a desperate fight by Emma to save a man’s life from certain death in the last poignant act of her 50 years as a revolutionary.

Helen and Eric are not well-matched for collaboration, but they both want to complete the project because the film rights have already been sold. As they inch forward with the story-line, Helen wants to faithfully retell Emma Goldman’s fascinating history, while Eric is inventing drama and action at every turn. With their creative differences escalating, the pair realize they are running into the same problems Emma spent her life embroiled in. As issues of truth, power and authority arise between them, the graphic novel itself becomes an ideological battlefield that Emma Goldman would have been keen to step onto.

In the historic section of the book I will use visual techniques of film noir to capture the atmosphere of Goldman’s life in Toronto in 1939. Current-day segments will be drawn using modern visual influences. I am working in watercolour, acrylic paint, pencil and pen.

WHO WAS EMMA GOLDMAN?

Emma Goldman (June 27, 1869 – May 14, 1940) was an anarchist, feminist and revolutionary known for her fervent political activism, passionate writing, and raucous speeches. In the recent political landscape she would have surely have been in the forefront of the Occupy movement and at the Battle in Seattle.

Born in Kovno in the Russian Empire (present-day Kaunas, Lithuania), Goldman emigrated to the U.S. in 1885 and lived in New York City, where she met her life-long comrade Alexander Berkman. In 1893, she was imprisoned for one year for attempting to incite unemployed workers to revolt against capitalism.

During the early part of the 20th century she spoke to audiences in the tens of thousands across North America. Her lectures and writings on prisons, atheism, freedom of speech, militarism, capitalism, marriage, free love, and homosexuality were ahead of their time. Her infamous lectures on birth control landed her in prison. Throughout her life she had to contend with police surveillance and violence as well as physical threats from members of the public, and an onslaught of media hysteria.

In 1906 she founded the magazine Mother Earth which was eventually banned for it’s articles on anti-militarism. In 1917, Goldman and Berkman were sentenced to two years in jail for their opposition to American men being drafted into World War I.

After her release from prison, Goldman was stripped of her U.S. citizenship and deported to the Soviet Union. At first, she supported the revolution in Russia, but soon discovered it was a totalitarian state.

After escaping Russia, she was forced into exile, being deported from countries across Europe. Eventually she was permitted to settle in the south of France where she wrote her 993 page autobiography, Living My Life.

During the Spanish Civil War, she ran the English language press office of the anarchist trade union, CNT/FAI, raising support for the fight against fascism. In 1939, when fascism triumphed in Spain, Goldman, gripped by depression over the anarchists defeat and the suicide of her friend Berkman, she moved to Toronto, Canada, where she died at the age of 70.

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Emma Goldman (watercolour pencil) by David Lester.