An epic, heart-rending saga from the Croatian novelist about a forgotten corner of the Nazi Holocaust.
The author offers no traditional novel. Its heart is the fictional story of Haya Tedeschi, daughter in a near-assimilated Jewish family from Gorizia, Italy, near Trieste. Interwoven with Haya’s tale are brutal historical facts of bloodletting during World War II. One chapter, "Behind Every Name There is a Story," is simply "[t]he names of 9,000 Jews who were deported from Italy, or killed in Italy or the countries Italy occupied between 1943 and 1945." There are photographs. There are war crime trial transcripts and poetry excerpts, from Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, Jorge Luis Borges and others crying out against "the deafness that presses upon the earth." Haya’s story begins as the family moves from their home in Italy to Albania and finally back to Gorizia as refugees. There, young Haya begins work as a store clerk. Haya’s seduced and becomes pregnant by Kurt Franz, an SS officer and death camp participant who ultimately reveals he knows Haya’s ethnicity, whispering "[m]y little Jewess, we can’t go on like this....Besides, my fianceé is waiting at home." Their child, Antonio, is soon kidnapped and spirited away to Germany to be raised as an ideal Aryan by a German couple. Antonio reappears at narrative’s end as Hans Traube, a photographer, a metaphor for all consumed in the conflagration of the Holocaust. Offering "no mercy for the pathological debris of humanity," the author rains bitter condemnation on the International Red Cross, the Swiss, the Roman Catholic Church and the passive complicity of the German people.
A brilliant artistic and moral achievement worth reading.