Lewes writer and activist dies


A talented author, poet and activist from Lewes has died from a sudden heart attack at the age of 78.

Irving Weinman lived in the St Anne’s Crescent with his wife, Judith Kazantzis, a noted poet in her own right and the daughter of social reformer Lord Longford and Lady Longford. She was also the sister of historian Antonia Fraser and moved to Lewes in 2000.

Irving Weinman was born in Boston on September 11, 1937, the child of Romanian Jewish parents who lived in Paris before emigrating in the 1930s to Boston. He was never allowed to forget that Romania had been the most anti-Semitic country in pre-war Europe. He was brought up in a multi-lingual household where his mother spoke seven languages. Most commonly heard at home were French, Yiddish and Russian as well as English.

Irving was a lawyer and an accomplished jazz pianist before turning his talents to poetry, short stories and crime novels. He wrote four novels - Tailor’s Dummy, Hampton Heat, Virgil’s Ghost and Easy Way Down as well as a volume of poetry, Eye of the Storm. His poetry appeared in a variety of magazines such as Rolling Stone and Poetry Review. He was Chair of the Poet’s Workshop at the British Poetry Society and was Executive Director and co-founder of the Key West Writers’ Workshop.

Irving attended writing classes with Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton. He also helped found the Lewes Needlewriters which meets regularly at the Needlemakers, West Street. He wrote powerful literary fiction. Wolf Tones is described as ‘funny and tough, a punchy, insightful portrait of a difficult father-son relationship and the sad arteriosclerosis of America.’

Irving was educated at Trinity College, Dublin and Cambridge University before moving to Lewes. Together with Judith and Naomi Foyle, he founded British Writers in Support of Palestine and was very conscious of his Jewish upbringing and the maelstrom his parents had escaped from. It was this which led him to become a signatory to Jews for Justice for the Palestinians and a Jewish anti-Zionist. In 2010 he was a driver for the Road to Hope Convoy to Gaza. Irving was proud to be Jewish but was also a member of the Brighton Palestine Solidarity Campaign, regularly attending demonstrations and activities.

Recently, he published books on the craft of fiction and was writing short stories based on his family history including the experience of refugees fleeing the pogroms. He is survived by Judith, her daughter Miranda; his son and daughter in America, Michael and Zoe; as well as grandchildren.

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