Books by Rochelle Owens

THE PASSERSBY by Liliane Atlan
FICTION
Released: Nov. 1, 1993

From a French poet and playwright who was hidden from the Nazis during WW II, an autobiographical novel about an anorexic Jewish teenager and her wealthy family in the postwar years. Institutionalized in a Swiss sanitorium, the girl is eventually rehabilitated by study, love, and the example of an adopted brother who lost his family in the camps yet is able ``to respond to Auschwitz with the decision to be happy.'' This is a spare, poetic, formally challenging work—with interleaved, fragmentary scenes from several decades and characters designated by identifying phrases rather than names (the protagonist is called ``No''; her adopted brother is ``I will create myself''), an intriguing and effective device that nonetheless becomes cumbersome as the cast grows. A valiant attempt to transmute pain into art, the book is especially interesting for its experimentation and insights into anorexia. Some will find it ultimately unsatisfying because the Holocaust is such an overwhelming event that, even when dealt with tangentially as it is here, it makes No's sufferings, life- threatening though they are, seem trivial by comparison. The greater redemptive mystery is the life of I will create myself; and yet the bystander's agonizing ``Starvation, of the soul, of the spirit, of the heart, and finally, of the flesh itself'' is a real part of the larger tragedy. Translator's glossary of French terms and unfamiliar names. (Fiction. 14+) Read full book review >