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 Godine's Verba Mundi series offers a riveting look at the Holocaust as seen by a young German writer who lives through the war in occupied Holland--where his spirit is crushed and trust in life destroyed. In Munich, Andreas grows up as a sensitive boy coddled by his bourgeois mother and Professor father, who both deny the significance of Hitler's rise until their carefully ordered world crashes down on them. Their grown son Andreas, meanwhile, does in fact have talent, producing three literary books before the war ends his writing life. Through a half-lie--about his weak heart--he escapes active duty and is sent to Amsterdam instead as a journalist. There, his political naivetÇ is shattered for good--at first he thinks he's actually going mad--when one night from the window of his room on the Beethovenstraat he sees people being herded into trolley cars and taken away. The ``nerve doctor'' whom he appeals to for help--himself a Jew and soon to disappear--has a son named David, whom Andreas immediately identifies with, seeing in him a mirror of himself, ``as if he were being torn in two.'' When David's parents are deported, David seeks out Andreas, who hides him in his room--until events overtake both of them. Andreas works for the Dutch Resistance, helps hide yet two other Jews, even ends up marrying David's cousin Suzanne, a survivor of Auschwitz. But David is gone forever, Andreas feels that he can never atone (``before the trolleys he hadn't understood a thing about the essence of fascism. That was his crime''), and that he will never write again, not even after a postwar trip back to Amsterdam to try to find meaning through memory. Weil herself (The Bride Price, 1992) hid in Holland during the Nazi years, after her husband's arrest and later death in the camps. Her eye, judgment, compassion, wisdom, and understatement--all produce an extraordinary, valuable, unusual novel.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 1-56792-031-4
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Godine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1997