Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Obituary Note: Bel Kaufman

Shelf Awareness

Bel Kaufman, a former New York City schoolteacher whose classic first novel, Up the Down Staircase, "was hailed as a stunningly accurate portrait of life in an urban school when it was published in 1965" and has sold more than six million copies, died Friday, the New York Times reported. She was 103.

She was born in 1911 in Berlin to Russian parents and grew up in Russia. She was the granddaughter of Yiddish writer Sholom Aleichem.

John Campbell of the John Campbell Agency, Kaufman's literary agent, said that "in her centenary years, Bel had very happily made the switch to digital." Open Road Media worked with Kaufman to pull together many of her unpublished short stories, published as a collection with the title La Tigresse, as well as many of her published magazine pieces, which appeared as This and That: Random Thoughts and Recollections. Open Road also has e-book editions of Up the Down Staircase and her other novel, Love, Etc. (See Open Road's video tribute to Kaufman, featuring the author, here.)

Campbell added that Love, Etc., published soon after Up the Down Staircase, was a favorite of hers and she found its sales of 300,000 copies disappointing. Open Road also has e-book editions of Up the Down Staircase and Love, Etc.

Ironically for someone whose first language was Russian, the title of the Russian edition of Kaufman's best-known work is Up the Staircase that Leads Down, Campbell said.

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