A haunting and unrelenting volume of Holocaust-centered works.

POEMS BORN IN BERGEN-BELSEN

Rosensaft explores the grief into which he was born in this collection of poems.

The author was born in the Bergen-Belsen displaced persons camp to two survivors of the Holocaust. His older brother, Benjamin, was killed at a concentration camp during the war, an event that the poet references in “A Refusal To Forgive the Death, by Gas, of a Child in Birkenau”: “my mother’s son / my mother’s child / his ashes diffused / toward the stars / almost three years / before I was born.” Rosensaft’s poems reverberate with loss as he grapples with the guilt of Polish bystanders who watched Nazis round up their Jewish neighbors and with his own longtime distrust of German names: “the difference,” reads one poem, “between John Smith / and / Hans Schmidt / is that I never wonder / whether John’s father / killed my brother.” His ruminations extend beyond the scope of World War II to subsequent genocides as well as more recent events, such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement: “we must now all shout / that Black lives matter / until no child of God / ever again dies gasping / ‘I can’t breathe.’ ” The opening poem, “in the seconds after the truck hit me,” reveals the poet as a grandfather, still acutely aware of the fleetingness of life and all that can be lost in a split second. Rosensaft’s poems are sparse and measured, filled with images of ghosts, fires, ash, and darkness; they’re rarely portraits of quiet grief. More often, he animates the words with simmering anger as they voice frustration toward perpetrators, bystanders, and even God. It’s a cohesive collection, though some of the most affecting moments are when the author wanders further afield, as when he remembers his deceased parents while at a hotel in sunny San Remo: “paradise comes in different forms / we each have our own / if we can find it / mine is here.” Even so, his staccato verses always find their way back to the Holocaust era, reminding readers that some parts of the past are always present.

A haunting and unrelenting volume of Holocaust-centered works.

Pub Date: April 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-952326-54-7

Page Count: 124

Publisher: Kelsay Books

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: yesterday

Did you like this book?

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Did you like this book?

A graceful debut.

SPILT MILK

MEMOIRS

A series of essays cohere into an evocative memoir.

In her first book, Zoffness, winner of a Sunday Times Short Story Award, gathers thoughtful pieces on themes that include motherhood, anxiety, and Jewish identity. Raised by extraordinarily fearful parents and worried about bequeathing her own anxiety to her son, the author studied medical journals and textbooks “to learn parent-child transfer.” She tries to assuage her 6-year-old’s fears, she tells her therapist, by putting up “a shield of faux calm.” The therapist referred her to a nearby doctor: “Maybe,” she suggested, “if you talk to her you can respond to him with real calm instead of faux calm.” Her 4-year-old son, too, incites her worries because he is obsessed with becoming a police officer. Zoffness is dismayed by “the heraldry of dominance and toughness that my boys can’t help but inhale,” and she finds it difficult to talk about injustice and brutality with such young children. She comes to realize, though, that the child is not drawn to violence; as the younger sibling, he just wants to exert some power. In “Ultra Sound,” Zoffness reflects on her tense relationship with her own mother, a deeply private woman who refuses to share details about her past as a performer. “Holy Body” merges the theme of motherhood with Jewish identity: Zoffness chronicles her mikveh, or ritual bath, intended, in part, “to help Jews of all stripes honor life transitions or commemorate occasions.” Zoffness acknowledges her momentous transition from childbearing in contrast to a friend, a mother of three, who has become a gestational surrogate, an act of altruism the author finds both selfless and mystifying. In other sharp pieces, the author recounts teenage angst and a friend’s betrayal; a visit to an astrologer recommended by a therapist; and confronting evidence of the Holocaust in the idyllic city of Freiburg, where Zoffness was teaching.

A graceful debut.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-952119-14-9

Page Count: 165

Publisher: McSweeney’s

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more