It was appropriate that the moderator for Alba Arikha’s talk last week at London’s Jewish Book Week was the war correspondent Janine di Giovanni. Di Giovanni is noted for preserving the human dimension in the complexities of conflict. Likewise, “Major/Minor,” Arikha’s recently published memoir, digs deep beneath the surface to explore her tempestuous relationship with her father, the Israeli-French painter Avigdor Arikha. The book strives to appreciate the influences that made her father the man he was, and how those influences shaped the woman she became, in turn.
Avigdor Arikha, who passed away in 2010, was one of the most noted artists and art historians of his age. His paintings and sketches hang in major museums around the world; his academic studies of Ingres and Velasquez, amongst others, are world class. His attitude to art — both his own and that of others — was passionate and intellectually uncompromising. So perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that his rela-tionship with his wife and two daughters was fraught with the tensions that often arise from living with a talented, complicated person.