A Promise of Sweet Tea is a tale of a family miraculous survival from the terrors of a disintegrating society. In their village in prewar Eastern Europe, young Pinchas Blitt is surrounded by colourful characters, vivid stories and the rich language and traditions of his ancestors. As antisemitism rises, Pinchas is beset by fears, but he finds belonging in family, Jewish texts, and prayers. In 1939, Pinchas adapts to the new Soviet occupation, but when the Nazis arrive, his beloved village is decimated, and he and his family must flee. A precarious existence on the run brings Pinchas face to face with his own mortality and faith, and with a sense of dislocation that will accompany him throughout his life. See a brief video here about Blitt’s memories growing up in this turbulent world and the point where when territories changed hands overnight, pictures of new heroes on the walls of his school required immediate new allegiances.
Blitt’s haunting and evocative memoir is one of the nominees for the 2022 J.I. Segal Award for the Best Quebec Book on a Jewish Theme (the prize is also accompanied by a $5,000 award). Mr Blitt, a long-time lawyer and member of Montreal’s Yiddish community theatre, was recently asked about writing and what other career he might have done.
Two Questions with Pinchas Blitt
What part of the writing process is the most exciting for you? Starting a project? Finishing it? Editing? Or some other part of the process? Why?
I find finishing the manuscript to be the most exciting because the writing process is exhausting. Although one is never truly satisfied with the final draft due to a feeling that a crucial episode or description was left out, the editor thankfully brings all issues to a head.
If you weren’t a writer and could do a totally different creative profession, what would it be and why?
I would have been a ballet dancer because when I was introduced to the ballet in 1939 as part of my Soviet education, I was enthralled by the grace and strength of the dancers.
Pinchas Blitt was born in Kortilisy, Poland (now Ukraine), in 1931 or 1932. He immigrated to Canada in 1948 and settled in Montreal, where he attended teacher’s college and law school. In addition to a long career as a lawyer, Pinchas was involved in the Yiddish theater community in Montreal for many years. Pinchas has three children. He lives in Montreal with his wife, Gisele.
There are a total of five short-listed works this year in contention for the 2022 J.I. Segal Award for the Best Quebec Book on a Jewish Theme. The other nominees are:
- Pierre Anctil, nominated for Antijudaïsme et influence nazie au Québec | Les Presses de l’Université de Montréal, 2021
- Anne Élaine Cliche, nominated for Le danseur de la Macaza | Le Quartanier, 2021
- David Homel, nominated for Lunging Into the Underbrush | Linda Leith Publishing, 2021
- Robyn Sarah, nominated for Music, Late and Soon | Biblioasis Books, 2021
The winner of the prize will be announced on Thursday, December 22 at 10am. The other prizes will also be announced next week:
- and the Rosa and David Z”L Finestone Translation Award for a Book on a Jewish Theme (with a $1,000 award). The winner will be announced on Wednesday, December 21 at 10am.
- the Dr Hirsh and Dvora Rosenfeld Award for Yiddish Literature (with a $1,000 award). The winner will be announced on Friday, December 23 at 10am.
Congratulations, Mister Pinchas Blitt, and all the nominees and winners!