Another spare novel of controlled passion by acclaimed Austrian writer Hackl (Aurora's Motive, 1989) that, like its predecessor, is a "fictional re-creation" of actual events. In 1933, a time of great political and economic unrest, a baby was found on the steps of a hospital in provincial Austria. Around her neck was a label, on which was written: "My name is Sidonia Adlersburg." Dark-haired and ailing, the child was presumed to be of gypsy origin, but the authorities, though they questioned local gypsies, were unable to find the mother. Sidonia was then taken in as a foster child by a local working-class family, active in left-wing politics, who loved her as one of their own. But outside events began to impinge on Sidonia's life. The Nazis took over Austria, and increasingly harassed Sidonia's family because of their political leanings. Though atheists, the couple was then forced to marry, put under surveillance, and the family allowances were cut. But as the Nazis accelerated their killing of non-Aryan races like the gypsies, the authorities, alleging that they had found her mother, insisted that Sidonia be returned to the gypsies. Though the child was a diligent student and well-liked, no one supported the family in their fight to keep Sidonia. Sidonia died in Auschwitz, aged 12. By paring down the story to almost a piece of reportage, the tragedy of Sidonia is even more devastating. And the questions Hackl raises about truth, tolerance of difference, and responsibility, though often framed in a narrow political context, do manage to transcend time and place. An evocative and moving contribution to Holocaust literature.
Read full book review >