Jef Last 1898-1972
Is There Any Life Stranger Than Mine?
Writer, poet, painter, journalist, translator, compelling speaker: Jef Last doesn’t fit any box. He roamed the globe, fought in the Spanish Civil War and was a brave resistance fighter.
All his life he was a romantic, passionate about freedom and justice, ever championing the underdog. A cultural bridge-builder between East and West, with his reflections on Chinese philosophy and translations of great Japanese writers, he counted André Gide and Willy Brandt among his friends.
He evolved from an ardent socialist into a humanist, with a stopover as a communist. He was capricious and sometimes difficult, but had strong principles and was true to his conscience. He was a mirror of his time but also ahead of his time, as his biographer notes.
Jef Last was a man who constantly asked questions and wouldn’t accept second-hand knowledge. The son of a well-to-do family, he was driven by an intense aversion to bourgeois ethics, preferring instead to be a worker among workers. Along with Joris Ivens, he was a pioneer in avant-garde film. Last was quick to see the dangers of fascism, battled against colonialism after World War II, and fought for homosexuality to be acknowledged.
Rudi Wester has written a compelling biography of this restless globetrotter.