Adolfo Kamin­sky, A Forger’s Life

Sarah Kamin­sky Mike Mitchell, trans­la­tor Adolfo Kamin­sky, pho­tog­ra­pher Dop­pel­house Press Hard­cover $26.95 (256pp) 978-0-9970034-0-6

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews - MICHELLE ANNE SCHINGLER

Adolfo Kamin­sky, A Forger’s Life is an im­pres­sive, at­ten­tion-grab­bing ac­count of un­der­min­ing cor­rupt and mur­der­ous gov­ern­ments.

The Nazi oc­cu­pa­tion of France forced Adolfo Kamin­sky, a bril­liant young stu­dent fas­ci­nated by chem­istry and art, to put aside his child­hood dreams and set his skills on a use­ful path: as a forger for re­sis­tance forces. In Adolfo Kamin­sky, A Forger’s Life, his daugh­ter, Sarah, rec­ol­lects her dis­cus­sions with her fa­ther and trans­forms them into a thrilling, nov­e­l­esque ac­count of how a young man be­came a sought-af­ter sub­ver­sive force.

Kamin­sky’s ca­reer as a forger be­gan with per­se­cu­tion, and as such, his story does not al­ways take happy turns. His fam­ily was of Rus­sian­jew­ish ori­gin, and was forced into a sec­ond-class ex­is­tence in Paris, and his mother was mur­dered. Kamin­sky him­self was ea­ger to be­come a part of the French Re­sis­tance to Nazi oc­cu­pa­tion, and soon be­came an in­valu­able forger for those in des­per­ate need of new iden­tity pa­pers. He re­counts churn­ing out pa­per­work for hun­dreds of res­i­dents in days, know­ing that an hour of sleep could come at the cost of hu­man lives. Pages re­lated to his re­sis­tance work race by.

Though the risks of his work are al­ways clear, Kamin­sky takes a mat­ter-of-fact ap­proach to the work, re­gard­ing it as nec­es­sary and hu­mane; he ac­cepts no pay­ment for it, and re­mains des­ti­tute for much of his work­ing life. He pounces upon chal­lenges, like re­pro­duc­ing the com­pli­cated Swiss pass­port, and de­feats them with a mix of panic and alacrity. He mourns co­con­spir­a­tors who are dis­cov­ered and dis­ap­peared. And af­ter the war is over, he finds a way to lever­age his skills into new acts of de­fi­ance, aid­ing those fight­ing for Al­ge­ria’s free­dom and those com­bat­ing apartheid, amongst oth­ers.

Adolfo Kamin­sky, A Forger’s Life is an im­pres­sive, at­ten­tion-grab­bing ac­count of un­der­min­ing cor­rupt and mur­der­ous gov­ern­ments, writ­ten in the voice of a man who is both self-ef­fac­ing and proud, who knows that his work is im­por­tant, but who wants no ac­co­lades for it. He was sim­ply do­ing the right thing, he in­sists again and again, and if that had to come at the ex­pense of re­la­tion­ships and feel­ings of se­cu­rity, so be it. This is a tri­umphant wartime bi­og­ra­phy, full of ac­counts of hero­ism and near-al­chemistic crafti­ness, that should im­press all those look­ing to cel­e­brate un­der­lauded World War II he­roes.

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