Chagall was the son of a herring merchant, born in Witebsk in White Russia, opposite a laundress and a chimney sweep. After the Revolution, while waiting for emigration papers, he wrote his autobiography at the age of 34.
My Life reads like one of Chagall's paintings- emotional, fragmentary, humorous, colourful and dream-like, soaked in nostalgia for Jewish small-town society, familiar from 'The Fiddler on the Roof'. It combines a colourist's eye for detail, an artist's passion for life, a satirical sense of humour and a backdrop of Belle poque Paris and revolutionary Russia. The character sketches are magnificent.
Chagall produced 50 illustrations, which accompany the text. The first English translation of My Life was published in 1965 and it has been in print ever since.