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“Writing is happiness”: Jewish Museum Frankfurt dedicates exhibition to author Mirjam Pressler |

Mirjam Pressler from Darmstadt is considered one of the most successful German authors of children’s and young adult books. An exhibition in the Jewish Museum now also shows its lesser-known sides and invites you to take part.

By Marit Tesar

Audio contribution


03:38 mins

Jewish Museum dedicates an exhibition to Mirjam Pressler

Mirjam Pressler, portrait from the 1980s, she stretches out her features

End of audio contribution

“Dying is not a bad thing if you have lived all seven lives,” says Bruno the cat in Mirjam Pressler’s penultimate book “It’s me, Kitty – From the life of a cat” from 2018. When the Darmstadt children’s and young adult author wrote a book a year later When she dies from cancer, her three daughters ask themselves: What were our mother’s seven lives?

It is based on this idea of ​​the seven lives Exhibition “Writing is Happiness” in the Jewish Museum Frankfurt. The curators Franziska Krah and Talitha Breidenstein show Pressler’s life in seven rooms – and through seven dreams.

Seven chapters

It’s about what Pressler made famous: writing and translating. Her Jewish identity and her new translation of Anne Frank’s diary also play a major role in the exhibition.

“Mirjam Pressler’s relationship with the Frank family was something very special,” says the deputy director of the Jewish Museum, Eva Atlan. This resulted in, among other things, the book “Greetings and Kisses to All – The Story of Anne Frank”, which was the focus of the “Frankfurt Reads a Book” event in 2015.

Exhibition view with partition walls, photos, showcases in front of blue walls and a red floor

Not talented enough to study art

The Jewish Museum also shows parts of Pressler that are less well-known: for example, that before her career as an author she actually wanted to be a painter.

At the age of 17 she was accepted at the Städelschule in Frankfurt. A few years later, however, the director suggested that she stop studying. They said she wasn’t talented enough.

Motherhood as a central theme

Another focus of the exhibition is Mirjam Pressler’s examination of the topic of motherhood. She had three daughters with her husband Jehuda Pressler and repeatedly emphasized that she wanted to be a good mother.

Mirjam Pressler

When her first book, “Bitter Chocolate,” was published, Mirjam Pressler was 39 years old and her daughter Gila was twelve years old. As a child, it was sometimes not easy to find moments from one’s own life in her mother’s books, says Gila Pressler.

Her mother also often included her in her writing and sought her opinion. “We were the first to get the flags of the books.”

Coming to terms with your own childhood

The author, however, described Mirjam Pressler’s relationship with her own mother as difficult. This is a topic that she doesn’t like to talk about.

Pressler was born in 1940 as an illegitimate daughter – a stigma at the time. She grew up partly in foster families and partly under precarious conditions in a home.

The author processed her childhood in novels such as “November Cats” from 1982 or “When happiness comes, then you have to put a chair for it”. The main character of the 1994 youth book also lives in a home and finds, among other things, solace in books and stories.

Fear, loneliness – and hope

“My mother often said: Life is beautiful,” says daughter Gila Pressler. She also knew the dark sides of life and discussed them in many of her books – they always deal with topics such as fear, violence, loneliness and food addiction.

Nevertheless, the books are always characterized by strong moments of hope. “What my mother could change, she changed,” says Gila Pressler.

An invitation to join in

This hands-on attitude is also reflected in the Jewish Museum. There aren’t particularly many exhibits in display cases. Instead, visitors are invited to read Mirjam Pressler’s books, nibble on fortune cookies filled with her wisdom, or think about which country they would like to live in for a while in front of a large world map.

Curator Franziska Krah hopes that visitors will be inspired by the exhibition and by Mirjam Pressler’s complex life and get thinking. “They should ask themselves how they can provide a chair for happiness in their own lives.”

Further information

Mirjam Pressler – Writing is happiness

The curator team identified Mirjam Pressler’s seven dreams: the dream of writing, of Anne Frank, of Israel, of Judaism, of painting, of motherhood and of translation. The exhibition at the Jewish Museum Frankfurt runs until September 1st.

End of further information

Further information

Editorial staff: Katrin Kimpel

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