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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
A Night in Distant Motion
by Irina Korschunow
Age Range: 14+
Seventeen-year-old Regine is a good student, a loving and dutiful daughter and a loyal supporter of the Nazi party. She has never sought to question her beliefs until one night in 1944 during an air raid where she meets Jan, a ‘sub-human’ Polish prisoner, who pleads with her to help a wounded friend. From that moment on Regine begins to doubt her world view and takes unbelievable risks in her developing relationship with Jan.
As Regine narrates the story she goes back and forth between her life as it is now in a place of refuge and interwoven episodes from her past: her family, friends, Jan, their betrayal, arrest and her final escape to safety.
It is through Regine’s discussions with Jan and later with the farmer’s daughter Gertrude and Maurice, a French prisoner of war that she starts to question what is going on around her. In one exchange with Jan she tells him of her mother’s blind faith in the Führer which angers her. Jan is the one who shows compassion by telling her not to condemn her mother for her beliefs, but Regine feels her parents are responsible. ‘We’re all guilty together’ she says. ‘What do you mean by guilt’? Jan asks. ‘Poles also killed Germans. Hate for hatred and then more hatred. Someone has to put an end to it. Do you know the story of the Pied Piper? ‘Yes. But my parents weren’t children anymore’ replies Regine. ‘Many people never grow up. They run after anyone who will make them promises’ says Jan.
German author Irina Korschunow’s understated novel of tragic love and a search for moral truth is incredibly powerful. It provides insight into the blind belief that blinkered the ordinary German populace as to what was really happening by touching on the manipulation of news, the fear of being denounced by an informer, for even the most smallest of misdemeanours, as well as showing the sheer brutality of the regime. But it is Regine’s soul-searching, the courage of those who thought differently and were prepared to take terrible risks to help others that is the most moving.
Korschunow received a certificate of Honour from IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People) and A Night in Distant Motion was selected by the ALA (American Library Association) as the best book for young adults in 1983.