Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Our Holocaust by Amir Gutfreund -2001- translated from Hebrew 2006 by Jessica Cohen

“Those sadists, I understand. It is not them that I fear. People like them are hiding everywhere around me today. I can guess who they will be and where they will come from if-what-happened-there-happens-here-too. What frightens me is the ones who maintained their integrity. The-people-who-did-not-hate-Jews. The-people-who-were-only-doing-their-job. Those people, I cannot understand, and I have no idea where they will come from. I pick Yariv up from kindergarten and we walk through his world together. No one will be shot here. Pregnant women need not worry—no one will stab them in the stomach. Women pushing strollers can keep peeking at their babies to make sure they’re not too warm, not too cold. No one will throw a baby in the air, wish the first shot had hit it in flight, and try again. But I know. The monsters are here. The only thing missing is the circumstances, and when the circumstances arise it will all happen here, and it will be directed against me because I will not collaborate. They will emerge, all of them, even the people-who-did-not-hate—although where they will come from I do not know—and the camp-commandants-who-triedto-supply-the-regulated-calorie-quotas-even-during-shortages.” Amir Gutfteund

I discovered this book through the newsletter of The Jewish Book Council.  As soon as I saw it was priced at $0.99 as a Kindle I hit purchase now and I am so glad i did.  It is a great addition to Holocaust fiction.  I am behind in my posting and accepting I could not describe The wonders of this book adequately I decided to share with my readers the post from The Jewish Book Council

“Review by Barbara S. Cohen

Beautifully translated from Hebrew, Our Holocaust is a novel narrated by a nameless child of Holocaust survivors. A prizewinner in Israel, it tells the story of relatives who are “collected” by virtue of the fact that they themselves have no one to call their own family since many of their parents, children, brothers and siblings were murdered during the Holocaust. The relatives operated under the “Law of Compression,” wherein fellow neighbors were turned into uncles, cousins and even grandparents. The colorful characters range from the eccentric, inwardly fearful Grandpa Lolek to Uncle Mendel and the cantankerous but loving Feiga. Although these Holocaust survivors make an effort to conduct sane lives, the horrors they experienced continue to haunt them, from panic and fear over a knock at the door, to inner demons plaguing the minds and souls of those who experienced the brutalities of the Nazis. Soon, the narrator also takes on the fears of his relatives, and begins to question those who walk down the street, or frequent his home, wondering if they were themselves Nazis, loyal soldiers or even worse, murderers themselves.

Our Holocaust is titled so appropriately: It makes the reader see that those who survived the Holocaust are not alone, that the horrors, the brutality, the pain and suffering are emotions that each of us share collectively as Jews. This book is impressive, and would be treasured by anyone interested in historical fiction as it relates to Jews who survived the brutality of the Nazis.

From the Rohr Judges
Gutfreund’s work is, as he takes pains to stress, not an autobiography. But it isn’t precisely not an autobiography either, and therein lies some of its complexity. In focusing on the story of how the Holocaust resonated among Israelis in the decades after the war, Gutfreund is following the imaginative ground of other writers, most notably David Grossman; but he does so in a way that is entirely his own. Gutfreund has stressed the remarkable research at Yad Vashem that went into the book, and the results are evident: even if this is, in part, a family story, it feels like more than that: a chronicle of the kind of stories that could have taken place, even if they didn’t. 
The survivors themselves, with their tics and their idiosyncrasies, are instantly and permanently memorable; the children who grow into adulthood, wanting simply to know more, are equally so. By the time that the story begins to move in the less firmly realistic ground, into the land of “Over There”—what might have been rather than what we know to have been—it hardly matters to the reader of the novel what was true and what Gutfreund has invented; what we are witness to is the development of an important work, not only of the genre often called “Holocaust literature,” but of Jewish literature more generally”

Amir Gutfreund was born in Haifa in 1963. After studying applied mathematics at the Technion, he joined the Israeli Air Force, where he worked in the field of mathematical research. The author of five novels and a collection of short stories, he received the Buchman Prize from the Yad Vashem Institute in 2002, the Sapir Prize in 2003, the Sami Rohr Choice Award from the Jewish Book Council in 2007, and the Prime Minister's Award in 2012. Gutfreund lived with his family in the Galilee in northern Israel. In November 2015, at the age of fifty-two, he passed away after a brave battle with cancer.

Died: 27 November 2015, Haifa, Israel

I have acquired his novel about Palestine in the 1920s The World is a Moment Later and hope to read it soon.

I give this book a very high endorsement 

1 comment:

Suko said...

Mel, thanks for sharing this review and commentary. It sounds like very compelling Holocaust fiction.