We’re delighted to welcome local author Martha Leigh for a special talk and book signing at the Meeting House.
Martha’s book “Invisible Ink” tells the story of her parents, Ralph and Edith – who were both extraordinary people living in extraordinary times. Ralph was a brilliant, poor Jew from the East End. Edith, also Jewish and from a bourgeois family in Central Europe, was a gifted concert pianist and refugee.
They became friends in Paris in 1937 as students, but were forced apart at the onset of the Second World War. Their intimate, emotional and sometimes humorous six year correspondence throughout the war led to marriage in 1945.
Each bore scars – hers from escaping the Nazis, and his from childhood tragedy. Overshadowing them both was a secret that burdened Ralph for most of his life.
After the war, Ralph became the world expert on the philosopher and writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Edith devoted herself to her piano, performing and teaching.
“Invisible Ink” is a compassionate and astute portrait of their relationship, and also traces Martha’s inner journey towards understanding herself.
From her large family archive (much of which needed deciphering) and from her own research, Martha has unearthed many other stories: her uncle’s heroism and pioneering work in medicine, and her grandmother’s and cousin’s miraculous escapes from the Holocaust. These are threads entwined in the greater tapestry of the social and political history of twentieth century Europe.
Martha Leigh has been living in Hackney for the last 35 years. The Meeting House is a very apt place for her to be talking about her family memoir “Invisible Ink”. Her father Ralph was born just a 20 minute or so walk away in Amhurst Road, and was the son of a Jewish tailor who later became an expert on Enlightenment philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
Rousseau was an important influence on Mary Wollstonecraft, a founding mother of modern Western feminism and one of the most famous names in the Meeting House’s history of dissent. Rousseau’s ideas form part of the same tapestry of Enlightenment thinking that made the Meeting House such an important home of radical ideas.
According to Martha’s father, Rousseau’s works were “electrifying masterpieces”. Rousseau viewed his fellow man as “wretched, depraved, sick and enslaved, when he was destined by nature to be happy, good, healthy and free”. Like Rousseau, Ralph was a brilliant outsider, and Martha presents a compassionate portrait of this complex character – and of his unusual marriage to her mother.
This hybrid event is available to attend in person at Newington Green Meeting House and online via Youtube Live. A link will be sent out before the event to attend online.
Book your tickets here: https://invisible-ink.eventbrite.co.uk