RUE ORDENER, RUE LABAT by Sarah Kofman

RUE ORDENER, RUE LABAT

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Kofman, a prominent French philosopher, wrote this memoir of her life as a Jewish child under the German occupation in 1994, shortly before she committed suicide. This is a strangely detached recollection of what it was like to be a little girl in France during the traumatic days of the Occupation. Kofman's father, a Hasidic rabbi, was arrested on July 16, 1942, during the first large round-up of French Jews and sent to Auschwitz, where he was murdered by a kapo for refusing to work on the Sabbath. The author's recollections begin on the ill-fated day of that round-up and follow her life through her admission to the Sorbonne ten years later at the age of 18. All she retains of her father besides her memories is his fountain pen, which sat on her desk driving her to write her own books: ``Maybe all my books have been the detours required to bring me to write about `that.' '' Kofman and her mother managed to avoid the Nazis, hiding with friends and acquaintances. Eventually, they settled in with a Gentile woman whom Kofman remembers as MÇmÇ. MÇmÇ gradually won the little girl over and at war's end tried to take custody of her. Because Kofman's relationship with her mother was a tortured one, the child carried a considerable weight of ambivalence at this turn of events. Finally, her mother was forced, literally, to kidnap Kofman in order to reclaim her. Kofman retells this story in short vignettes, dispassionately and coolly. The result is all the more powerful for its author's distanced voice. Smock's translation catches the tone quite successfully. At times almost painful to read, a different kind of Holocaust memoir and a book that, with hindsight, suggests the fate that the author had perhaps already chosen for herself.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-8032-2731-0
Page count: 112pp
Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1996