Thursday, June 29, 2006
The Memory Man - Lisa Appignanesi [June/06]
The other day I had the chance to get a free book if I bought three others, so I decided to try something new. This novel caught my eye because it won the Isaac Frischwasser Award for Holocaust Literature. I like novels that take place during World War II, so I thought I would give it a try.
From the back:
Bruno Lind is on a mission, though he may not know it. Irene Davies knows she is, but isn't sure it's the right one. Both of them are haunted by the legacy of a tangled history of love and war.
Propelled by dreams, a chance name overheard in a hotel lobby, and the urgings of his daughter, Lind becomes the detective of his own unexplored life. He retraces those experiences of the Second World War, of refugee camps and migration, that he has long been unable to communicate. They immerse him in a world where some can't remember and others can't forget, and all are tainted by the logic of race.
I have never read Appignanesi before, but this novel was a good introduction to her. Set in modern times, the book is broken into sections. In the first section, the characters are introduced. They have all been brough together because of one man, Bruno Lind. Lind is in Vienna to give a lecture on the work that he has been producing in the United States. While checking in, he hears a name from his youth during the Second World War and it leads him to take a walk down memory lane. He was born in Vienna and finds himself visiting the house of his childhood. When he stumbles across it, an accidently runin leaves him injured and in need of a hospital. Irene Davies calls an ambulance, and then suddenly she is connected to the story. She is also looking for the man that bears the name of the one that sparked Lind to go to his old house in the first place. Then, his trip to the hospital results in his daughter coming to check up on him. Suddenly, the four characters are bundled together.
Then, we move on to the second section where the novel starts to travel back and forth through past and present. For one part we are back in the war torn world and for the next we are in the present seeing the moments that are sparking Lind's memories. It is amazing how Appignanesi makes all the pieces fit together. Sometimes novels have things work out that make little sense or look totally impossible, but the connections that are made in this novel make sense. The people all come together in bizarre, yet possible, ways.
The scenes are very vivid, but for all the death and destruction the war brought with, I did not find this novel overly depressing. I was interested in the events, as Lind is a Jew, and how Jews managed to stay out of the concentration camps during the war. A wonderful new novel from a very depressing period.