Website of Bram Presser
The Book of Dirt by Bram Presser was the 2018 Winner of the Jewish Book Council Goldberg Prize for Debut Fiction.
The Book of Dirt is a very original work of art centering around the experiences of survivors of the Holocaust from Prague, relatives of Bram Presser and his efforts to understand family secrets.
There are two primary figures from the Holocaust era. One is Jakub Rand who was sent to Theresienstsft Concentration Camp. He was picked by a Nazi intellectual to select Jewish authored books for a museum of extinct people the Germans plsnned to open after they won the war. The account of his work brought to my mind nonfiction accounts I have read about efforts to preserve Jewish books. He was what was called a "privledged Jew" because of his work. He got better food and was, as long as he was needed, exempt from transportation.
Another distant relative is Frautisha Roubietova, a gentile woman who converted to to Judaism upon marriage. Her marriage failed. When her two young daughters are selected for transport, and certain selection for death upon arrival, she finds a way for the three of them to survive.
Combined with this is the efforts of Bram Presser to discover just how these two family members came to survive. The ambience of Jewish
Prague during the Holocaust is brilliantly portrayed.
Presser very skillfully mixes table and history. There are two villages featured, one with mostly Jews and one inhabited by those who believe as did the Nazis.
The Sidney Herald has a good account of how Presser came to write The Book of Dirt.
Semi-reformed punk rocker, recovering academic, occasional criminal lawyer and one-time cartoon character, Bram Presser was born in Melbourne in 1976. He writes the blog Bait For Bookworms and is a founding member of Melbourne Jewish Book Week. His stories have appeared in Vice Magazine, The Sleepers Almanac, Best Australian Stories, Award Winning Australian Writing and Higher Arc. From Goodreads