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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)
by Carl Friedman
Age Range: 12+
It is the 1960s and the Second World War is in the past, but the narrator’s father cannot stop telling stories about the ‘camp’. He always begins his story: “When I was in the camp.....” Any ordinary event can evoke a memory and yet another story. The narrator and her two brothers, Max and Simon are his audience. They live in the everyday world of school and friends, but also in their father’s nightmare world of hunger, gas, and the crematorium. As they struggle to understand, their father continues to reveal the harrowing story of his imprisonment and survival.
This is a hard-hitting autobiographical novel based on the author’s father. In short, sharp chapters, Carl Friedman writes about the Holocaust without ever compromising her compassion or extinguishing her sense of hope, neither does she shy away from the brutality or appalling living conditions of the ‘camp’; the children are simply told how it was with nothing held back. It captures the sheer torment of the father as his days and nights are filled with images of what he endured over fifteen years before - and it shows how "one generation’s experience of history becomes the property of the second" as they learn to live with the legacy of their father’s Holocaust experience.