NIGHTFATHER by Carl Friedman


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 Dutch author Friedman's first novel, and first to be translated into English, is a gut-wrenching fictionalized memoir of the daughter of a Holocaust survivor. She employs a series of vignettes told in the voice of a young Jewish- Dutch girl in the 1950s. The narrator's father, she explains in an unsentimental, almost reportorial tone, has ``had camp.'' ``Camp'' is a condition--an incurable one, as we discover. The girl's father wanders off at night, is institutionalized for recurrent tuberculosis, is chronically depressed. His condition is also evident from the look in his eyes, the same look the little girl sees in the eyes of a caged wolf in the zoo. Friedman, here and elsewhere, uses the child's innocence to reveal a deeper truth about survivors, one that even the narrator's brothers are too old to comprehend. The three children learn from their father to fear not the dark but the Nazis: The girl buries her toys so that neighboring children will not find them when the Nazis take her away; all her drawings at school are of the concentration camps; she fears her father's jailers. Immersed in his own horror, her father doesn't realize the terror he instills in his child. She, in turn, is too young and too guilt-ridden to protest. Friedman's child narrator is a double-edged sword: at once a victim's victim and a faithful observer of a survivor's difficult reentry into civilization. (Fiction. All ages)

Pub Date: Oct. 27th, 1994
ISBN: 0-89255-193-3
Page count: 144pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1994


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