Book reviews Critiques littéraires Books recently published in english and french.

dimanche 17 janvier 2010

Rachel Seiffert , The Dark Room a first book and an amazing one

Three harrowing short stories on the unbearable memories of the Nazi past and crimes, and here we think right off " Oh, no.. not again, these awful nazi tales and terrible guilt "... Buno, it is worth while reading and a truly remarkable work as this german- australian writer tackles young and innocent germans who deal with WWII horrors with simple straight sentences,an incredibly laconic style,.and no moral sentencing visible .The reader makes his own moral judgement inevitably .
The first story "Helmut ", tells of a young handicapped , a simpleton really ,who sees his parents disappear in the bombs of Berlin and survives amongst the ruins by photographing all he can observe, including the Soviet invasion. He loves Berlin and his neighborhood and understands nothing, therefore feels no guilt : hearbreaking, non sensical , terrible as it is, we understand that many people do not and will never understand what this war meant and only tried to survive .Thus a Passive witness stands there, mute..
The second story is more tragic : two known Nazi parents are arrested at the end of the war : the Father in the Russian front is sent to Prison for 15 years, the mother is put in prison by the American occupation forces and the 5 small kids left alone , are told to go back to their grand' ma (Oma) in Hamburg. This is across occupied Germany . The oldest girl Lore is 12 and has the mother's savings in a purse, a general notion of grand ma's house and garden , a small baby and toddlers .. and off they go , walking ,trying ot get on trains,without any papers, begging often for food or starving, trusting no one etc, an unbelievable trekking really a calvary, kidsnot daring to mention their parents wherabouts for fear of rejection nd shame. . Here we touch the bottom of these stories : the unbearable weight of shame poured over the succeeding generations of Germans who now know about the holocaust , the camps, and are horrified by their parents and grand parents crimes. The Nazi past goes back to three genrations now. Yes,the Biblical admomition sounds clear :" the crimes of the fathers visited upon their sons", an unretrievable prophecy and an unjust one .I know of no other nation personally, who has felt and portrayed so keenly the shame of its past and the inability to talk about it. The writers are the ones who uncover the truth and the suffering ,
The third story tells of the third generation's guilt and fury: Micha, a young german married to a turkish woman, comes to realize that his beloved Opa, now dead, who was a Waffen SS( the worst Nazi unit) on the Eastern front, must have killed lots of people: he needs to know for sure,his family is mute, and so he travels resolutely to a village in Bielarus to find out..This pilgrimage of the horrible family past is a calvary : he has to go visit several time before he can admit the goal of his trip to anyone he encounters in Minsk. The murders committed by Opa's unit are still remembered ,he is personally recognized by a survivor, who himself was a collaborator .. it could not be worse . Micha loved dearly an old grand' pa who was murderer and a convict, who dealt with his own guilt upon his return, by getting drunk occasionally, and resting in his family's complete silence and unconscious complicity .
In the last two stories , Seiffert shows clearly how the grand mothers ( the Omas ), war widows, covered up for their guilty husbands, claiming that "he was a good man" in front of the troubled grand children, and what else could they say , poor women? What a horrible past to bear and what courage it demands to unravel it ; this is what this writer does , and naturally she suffered a long depression after having written this extraordinarily tough book. Indeed our family and country's past and crimes follow us everywhere ; we must atone for their deeds whether we like it or not, the past is never silent, the dead rise again...Few want to know this, but again we must admire this german endeavor .

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Brussels, Belgium
Née à Bruxelles, mère résistante et sculpteur, père homme d’affaires, études à l ’Université libre de Bruxelles ( Philosophie et Lettres ; arts primitifs), puis à Harvard ( anthropologie), Rutgers New Brunswick, Duke University .N.C. USA ( littérature comparée, Masters et Doctorat.) Thèse publiée (Ph.D) sur Valéry et Mallarmé. Enseignement universitaire aux USA, en France (Aix en Provence) et au Liban (comme coopérant) ,littérature et philosophie , en français ou anglais. Mariée en premières noces à un avocat américain G.Robert Wills et puis à un peintre et publiciste Français, Jean- Pierre Rhein (décédé). La plupart des publications sous le nom de Wills.Vit à Bruxelles.