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Category Archives: Novels


Source: Arutz Sheva, November 4, 2014

Australian writer Lily Brett on Tuesday won France’s Prix Medicis literary award for best foreign book for “Lola Bensky,” a novel drawing on her experience both as a 1960s rock journalist and the daughter of Holocaust survivors.

Brett’s sixth novel tells the story of an eponymous heroine who arrives in London in 1967 and proceeds to interview the biggest names in music, from Mick Jagger and Janis Joplin to Jimi Hendrix and Cher.

Soon, however, she starts to wonder if the questions she is asking are in fact substitutes for questions about her parents’ past.

Reacting to the award – announced to the press at a Parisian restaurant – Brett told reporters she was “ecstatic.”

“I am so proud to have won this prize,” she said. “I first came to Paris when I was almost two years old. My parents were survivors of Nazi death camps and we were here on the way to a new life.”

“I have a photograph of myself on a carousel in (central Paris district) the Marais and I look overjoyed. You can see I already loved this city,” she said.

Brett said that, like her character Lola, she too had been sent to London as a rock journalist in 1967.

Without the ever-present managers and PRs that surround stars today, she was able to get close to many of them, she said, adding that it was a conversation with Jimi Hendrix that provided the idea for the book.

“I was sitting in Mick Jagger’s apartment…discussing hair curls with Jimi Hendrix,” she said. “We both had very curly hair. His much more curly than mine and that led to the basis of ‘Lola Bensky.'”

Brett’s Jewish parents, Max and Rose, were both sent to Auschwitz during World War II. Both lost their entire families during the conflict and the novelist has said her father grieved over his dead relatives throughout her childhood.

“I lived in a house where the dead were more present than the living,” she told a journalist in 2012.

Some of the people Brett interviewed as a rock journalist would soon be dead themselves, and because of her own family background they struck a cord with her.

“It was a short time after the war, the 1960s, (and)…I was in the middle of a whole lot of people who were hurtling towards their death,” she said.

“They didn’t know it – Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix – they were all going to be dead in a few years and I came from people who were struggling to live and who had been surrounded by death so it was a very, very meaningful book for me to write,” she added.

The winner of the Prix Medicis’s main category, meanwhile, was French author Antoine Volodine, for “Terminus Radieux” (“Radiant Terminus”), set in Siberia in the aftermath of nuclear disaster.

Volodine is the main pen name for a writer – a former professor of Russian – who also goes by the names Elli Kronauer, Manuela Draeger and Luitz Bassmann. Under the name Volodine he has written around 20 novels.



Source: The Jerusalem Post, October 10, 2014

The works of Patrick Modiano, the French author awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, deal frequently with the experience of Jews under the collaborationist Vichy Regime in World War II occupied France.

His works also deal with the ambiguous role played during the Holocaust by ordinary Frenchmen, including their role in deporting Jews to Nazi camps.

Modiano, whose father came from an Italian-Jewish family, was awarded the $1.1 million prize, the Nobel committee said, “for the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation.”

Born in a Paris suburb soon after the end of World War II, Modiano, 69, has written more than two dozen novels, as well as children’s books and screenplays, but relatively few have been translated into English. While famous in France, he is little known in the United States.

His first novel, “La Place de l’étoile,” was published  in 1968 and was, in part, about a Jew who engaged in shady activities during the Nazi occupation.

He also co-authored the screenplay of Louis Malle’s acclaimed 1974 film “Lacombe, Lucien,” which focused on a young man who joins pro-Nazi French collaborators after being rejected by the anti-Nazi resistance, but then falls in love with a Jewish girl. “Dora Bruder,” published in 1997, traces the life of a girl deported and killed at Auschwitz.

“I have always felt like I’ve been writing the same book for the past 45 years,” he told a news conference after the award was announced on Wednesday.

Traumatic past experiences can haunt the present as ghosts. It is no surprise, thus, that many Holocaust-related fictions have reworked a mythological figure from the Jewish folklore: the dybbuk, a malevolent wandering spirit that takes possession of the body of a living being in order to fulfill his unfinished tasks. In the Mossad file on Adolf Eichmann, shown recently at an exhibit in Tel Aviv, the Nazi criminal was code-named dybbuk.

This legendary figure gained popularity in the first decades of 1900 after the play The Dybbuk, or Between Two Worlds (1914) by Russian Jewish playwright S. Ansky and the Polish fantasy film The Dybbuk, based on the play and directed by Michał Waszyński in 1937.

As a post-Holocaust theme, the dybbuk has been used both in a comic key and in a horror register.

1. Genghis Cohn

The Dance of Genghis Cohn (1967) by French novelist Romain Gary features a former SS officer, commander Schatz, haunted by the dybbuk of a Jewish ventriloquist he had sent to death in the camps with a public execution. In 1993 Elijah Moshinsky made a tv-film adapted from Gary’s novel, Genghis Cohn. The comedian’s ghost does his best to cause his “host” the most awkward and embarassing misadventures.

The film can be watched on YouTube.

2. The Entertainer and the Dybbuk

The Entertainer and the Dybbuk is a 2007 short novel by Sid Fleischman, renowned author of children’s books. It tells the story of Freddie, an American soldier who has stayed in Europe after the war to work as a ventriloquist. One day Freddie finds in his closet the ghost of a twelve-year-old boy killed in the Holocaust. The boy, Avrom, asks Freddie if he can inhabit him during his shows, and uses this opportunity as a way to find in the audiences the SS officer who shot him and his sister.

3. The Unborn

The Unborn is a 2009 horror film directed by David S. Goyer. Sofi Kozma and her twin brother Barto, at Auschwitz, were subjected to the experiments of Doctor Josef Mengele. Many years later a young woman, Casey (we eventually learn she is Sofi’s granddaughter), begins to have strange hallucinations and her eye color shifts from brown to blue. Barto, as it turns out, died during a Nazi experiment to change his eye color, and awoke from the dead in the form of a dybbuk. Sofi’s unresolved past is the cause of his perpetuation. The key issue of the film, according to Aaron Kerner, is

(…) how one generation might haunt the proceeding generations. Goyer’s film then might function as a literalized manifestation of second or third generation survivors riddled with “survivor guilt”. The weight of the Holocaust, even when survivors elect not to speak about it (perhaps because they don’t want to burden anybody with their traumatic memories), can be enormous and return to the succeeding generations as an uncanny specter, manifesting in forms of (survivor) guilt or melancholia. (Film and the Holocaust, p. 160).