Set in 1945 war-torn Germany, this novel opens with Helene abandoning her 7-year-old son Peter at a railway station. To produce this international bestseller, Julia Franck spent a year reading literature written in central Europe between 1900 and 1935. Not just “Kafka or Krauss, but Musil, Walser, Schüler and Kalecko,” says Franck. “Reading them helped me understand what a writer thought about at this time.” But Franck’s family history also informs the novel—having listened to her grandmother’s memories all her life, she knew “just how it was to live in the ’20s.” The author’s interest in exploring the “blindness of the heart”—that survival instinct that enables seemingly unthinkable actions—is partly rooted in her own family history; like the character Peter, Franck’s father was abandoned as a child by his mother. Franck says that she came to develop a certain empathy for the character Helene. “What I like about writing is that you don’t explain a world but explore it,” she says. “I never wanted to be a judge, neither in moral nor ideological terms—though while writing you do realize how you measure your moral understanding.” Rather than writing about people, says Franck, she tries to take “their view, their sight, their perspective.”
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Blindness of the Heart
Julia Franck; translated by Anthea Bell
Grove / October / 9780802119674 / $24.95
This book was featured in the Kirkus Best of 2010