DITA SAXOVA by Arnost Lustig


Email this review


Lustig regularly reserves his surest touch, his greatest insight, for the lives of children who've survived the Holocaust. Dita Saxova is one of these: 18, she lives just after the war in a girls' hostel on Lubliana Street in Prague, among other Jewish girls, all of them numbered on the forearm in Thereisensdadt or Belsen or Auschwitz. Too old to be cared-for parentally (if any had parents left to do the caring-for), too young to be fully adult, too reality-soaked to harbor many illusions, these girls are hedonist, opportunist, grabby, scared, ""with a different psychology. They never expected to get what they had coming to them. It was as if they'd bought a beautiful clock and never worried whether it ran fast or slow because it has such a beautiful appearance."" Now they've come into possession of the power of sexual favors, they who'd been so powerless in the camps. Dita, finding herself ""judging people by whether or not she would want to be in the camps with them,"" surrenders her virginity to a Jewish boy, David Egon, ""D.E."" Their afternoon tryst in a forest resort hotel, the band playing in the dining room below, the hours of talk after the lovemaking--it's a scene of magical, resonant poignance, and it matters little that the rest of the book doesn't come close to equalling it. Lustig now and then will shoe-horn in memories and observation; and Dita's ultimate fate, experienced in Switzerland, where she's been finally sent by a Jewish agency, is melodramatic and a little tinny. But Dita remains so very, very touching and brittle and bright, never maladroit, that the shortcomings are relatively short indeed. A graceful, sad book with a namesake character worthy of the loving attention Lustig has given her.

Pub Date: Sept. 26th, 1979
Publisher: Harper & Row