ANYA by Susan Fromberg Schaeffer


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Unlike Elie Wiesel, the author of Failing (1973) did not experience the Nazi holocaust -- yet this is a remarkable reconstruction, and like Wiesel, Ms. Schaeffer is concerned with what happens to the mind of the survivor when one's identity is with the dead. The pre-war bourgeois household of Anya's Polish/Jewish family was a walled garden of warmth and playful courtesy, material pleasures and comforts with a kind humanist father and a lively demonstrative mother. The growing horror outside is barely noticed by the young people: ""Mein Kampf,"" shouts Anya to her mother as they both swing in hammocks on a dreamy summer's day, ""is really a fairy tale."" But ""biblical times"" -- an often-quoted phrase from the past -- explode, and Anya sees her father, mutilated and near death, behind barbed wire. The remaining members of her family in the days ahead are systematically murdered, including Anya's young husband. Her baby daughter, Ninka, is temporarily safe, and throughout the death-stink of the camps, Ninka's rescue is her total obsession. After the war the struggle to survive goes on with bleak intensity, and she does bring Ninka to America. Now at 52 Anya surveys the great walls blocking her sensibilities, the distance of Ninka and grandchildren -- and the loss which no living person can ever redeem. More and more she dreams of her family in Poland and knows that someday ""they will not vanish; they will be there."" The author's affinity with Anya and the extraordinary fidelity of the characterization effects a novel of considerable power.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1974
ISBN: 0393325210
Publisher: Macmillan