A Hatred for Tulips

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"People who don’t have secrets imagine them as dark and hidden. It’s just the opposite. Secrets are bright. They light you up. Like the bare lightbulb left on in a cell day and night, they give you no rest."
So thinks Joop, the narrator of this brief and bitter tale, whose secret is like no other. He has kept that secret for more than sixty years, but now his brother---whom he has not seen since the end of the war---has suddenly shown up at ...
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Overview

"People who don’t have secrets imagine them as dark and hidden. It’s just the opposite. Secrets are bright. They light you up. Like the bare lightbulb left on in a cell day and night, they give you no rest."
So thinks Joop, the narrator of this brief and bitter tale, whose secret is like no other. He has kept that secret for more than sixty years, but now his brother---whom he has not seen since the end of the war---has suddenly shown up at his door.

Having grown up in North America with only the vaguest memories of World War II, Joop’s brother has returned to Amsterdam to find out what his childhood in Holland had been like. But what he discovers is much more than he bargained for---he is startled and dismayed to learn of his own role in the betrayal of Anne Frank.

Transporting readers through the agonizing Nazi takeover of World War II, Joop recounts his role as a boy desiring to feed his starving family. He figures out a way to provide for them, but in doing so, he sets in motion a chain of events that will horrify the entire world.

Just as he did in the internationally acclaimed The Autobiography of Joseph Stalin, here Richard Lourie takes us into not only a person’s mind, a time, and a place, but into the treacherous currents of history that sweep lives away. This gripping fictionalized account of the man who betrayed Anne Frank will not soon be forgotten.
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Editorial Reviews

Elena Lappin
Most of the book consists of Joop's account of his boyhood in wartime Amsterdam. His portrait of a starving city under Nazi occupation (tulip bulbs were cooked when there was little else to eat) has all the plausibility and cool detachment of a well-researched and carefully edited documentary. It is skillfully done, with minimal, well-placed strokes, written in blunt yet elegant prose. The tensions in Joop's family—the fighting parents; the distant, angry, hard-drinking and sometimes violent father; the weak mother; the nasty uncle who is a member of the Dutch Nazi party; the boy's desperate desire, and failure, to please his parents—serve as a backdrop to Joop's betrayal of Anne Frank.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

According to Lourie's fictional account, the informant who turned Anne Frank and her family in to the Nazis was a mere adolescent, motivated more by a desire to feed his dying father, who was subsisting on tulip bulbs, than by an obsessive hatred for Jews or by an unalloyed greed. When the brother he hasn't seen for 60 years visits from America, self-pitying Joop confesses his terrible boyhood secret, which he claims prevented him from marrying, cultivating friendships or leading a normal life, and relives the war years. Events include Joop's brief play at sabotage (discovered by a Dutch Nazi uncle and reported to Joop's father, who savagely beats him); Joop surviving diphtheria (he's blamed when a similarly infected sibling dies); and Joop's parents' unhappy marriage and casual anti-Semitism, which cast shadows over his ordinary activities. Lourie's rendering of Anne Frank's fictional betrayer as a callous, misguided youth is stark and deftly written. (Aug.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Some stories are so compelling that they're retold numerous times and refashioned in numerous different ways in an attempt to keep the human element alive. It's been 60 years since the initial publication of The Diary of Anne Frank, yet internationally acclaimed author and translator Lourie (The Autobiography of Joseph Stalin) manages to bring a new perspective to Anne's story. The novel opens in present-day Amsterdam with an elderly man known as Joop having just confessed a childhood secret he has kept for more than 60 years-a secret that involves Anne Frank. Joop recounts the ugly German takeover of Amsterdam, what it did to his family, and the choices he made to survive. Readers will be surprised at how well the author humanizes the non-Jewish residents of Amsterdam and what they endured while at the same time refusing to diminish the ugliness of what some of them did. Though slim, this novel speaks volumes and is destined to be a best seller and a book club favorite. Highly recommended for all public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ4/15/07; library marketing campaign planned.-Ed.]
—Marika Zemke

Kirkus Reviews
The conceit of this novel is a reunion of two Dutch brothers, one who escaped to America with his mother shortly after the close of World War II and another who stayed in Holland, bitter at his mother's escape and tormented by the memory of having betrayed Anne Frank's family in August 1944. Lourie (Sakharov: A Biography, 2002, etc.) begins the novel by taking us back to Holland shortly before the German invasion of Poland. While only a child, Joop already feels in his family a tension between loyalty to Holland and sympathy for the German cause. After the occupation of Holland in May 1940, Joop and his friend Kees make an adolescent gesture toward rebellion by attempting to put sand in the gas tank of a German jeep, but Joop's uncle Frans, who has welcomed the occupation forces and later loses his legs fighting for Germany on the eastern front, catches them and broadly hints to Joop's father what they've been up to. This intimation of resistance leads Joop's father to give his son the biggest beating of his life-not because of ideological reasons but rather because Joop's foolish act could have endangered the entire family. As the war progresses, the family's want increases, and Joop is led both to steal food for his family and to earn money making surreptitious deliveries to families hiding Jews. Desperation grows-the title refers to Joop's painful memory of having to eat boiled tulip bulbs during these days of scarcity-and when Joop's father gets ill, the family crisis grows even more acute. Joop knows he can make more money turning Jews over to the authorities than finding intermittent work as a delivery boy, so he makes the harrowing decision to save his father by betraying thefamily at 263 Prinsengracht. Even 60 years after the war, Joop feels embittered toward his younger brother, whom he in part holds responsible for his agonized choice. A haunting novel that doesn't fully resolve the tensions it dramatizes.
From the Publisher
Outstanding Praise for Richard Lourie

"Lourie is located somewhere between James Bond and Heidegger . . . an excellent mixture of thrills and the exotic."

- Saul Bellow on First Loyalty

The Autobiography of Joseph Stalin

"Dark and fascinating . . . Lourie's prose is spare and evocative, the plot compelling."

- The Wall Street Journal

"Magnificently written! I couldn't put it down."

- Czeslaw Milosz

"Scintillating . . . ferociously absorbing."

- Newsday

"A very, very fine writer . . . highly recommended."

- Library Journal

"Enthralling . . . deeply thoughtful and hugely entertaining."

- The Boston Globe

"Really fine fiction."

- Time

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781410402684
  • Publisher: Gale Group
  • Publication date: 12/28/2007
  • Edition description: Large Print
  • Pages: 241
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Lourie is the critically acclaimed author of both fiction and nonfiction, including The Autobiography of Joseph Stalin and Sakharov: A Biography. He has translated forty books and has served as Mikhail Gorbachev's translator for The New York Times. His articles and reviews have appeared in many influential publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, the New Republic, and The Nation. He is currently a correspondent for The Moscow Times.

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Read an Excerpt

A Hatred for Tulips


By Lourie, Richard

Thomas Dunne Books

Copyright © 2007 Lourie, Richard
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780312349332

Chapter One “I am your brother,” said the stranger at the door. At first I thought he was one of those evangelicals who go from house to house peddling salvation, but then I looked more closely at his face and saw my mother’s eyes looking back at me. “Come in,” I said. We didn’t fall into each other’s arms or even shake hands, one too much, the other too little. We hadn’t seen each other for sixty years. What did it mean that we were brothers? I held the door open for him and as I watched him walk past in profile, I thought: Willem must be sixty-five now. But he didn’t look it. A face that hadn’t seen much. A gray-haired boy. An American. “I don’t have much to offer you,” I said. “Beer. Some ham, cheese, bread.” “Sounds good.” “I live alone. I don’t keep much in the house.” “You never married?” he asked, sounding concerned. “No.” I didn’t ask him about himself. Didn’t have to. “I was lucky,” he said. “Found the right woman and found her early. Two kids. Five grandchildren. My oldest, Cindy—” “I’ll be back in a minutewith the beer.” I didn’t want to hear their names, see their snapshots. Willem had gotten everything. When our mother left our father for a Canadian soldier at the end of the war, it was young Willem she took with her and so he’d gotten everything, her, a family, America. “Dutch beer is the best,” he said after a good swig. “You like a drink then?” “Since I first tried it.” “It’s in the blood then,” I said with a smile and he smiled too, though I knew we had to be smiling for different reasons. “You must be sixty-five, Willem,” I said. “That’s right,” he said. “I am.
I don’t know where the time went, the years just flew by.” I knew he was speaking about his own life, how one day you wake up old, but he was also apologizing for never having come to see his own brother in all those sixty years since our mother took him from Holland. “What was your work, Willem?” “I was an optometrist. You?” “I worked in the food industry like my father. Our father. You must excuse if I sometimes say ‘my father’ and not ‘our father.’ I’ve been saying it so long.” “Sure,” said Willem, with a look of pain on his face that I was glad to see, “sure, I understand.” “But I wasn’t a cook like our father. I worked in wholesale, warehousing, distribution.” “Retired?” “For several years.” I knew he was about to ask me what I did with my time but was somehow reluctant to. Maybe sitting across from me at the table, he could see into me a little. People who don’t have secrets imagine them as dark and hidden. It’s just the opposite. Secrets are bright. They light you up. Like the bare lightbulb left on in a cell day and night, they give you no rest. In a way I’m amazed that he couldn’t see into me, I feel so transparent. Or maybe he was just having second thoughts about coming over here, coming to see me. He was clearly a little uncomfortable in my place, which was clean but dingy. We finished the first beer with small talk—how was the flight over, what hotel was he staying in, how long did he intend to stay in Amsterdam? “At least a week,” he said. “I mean, there’s a lot to see and do. And I promised the grandkids to make a video of everything for them. One of them’s doing a ‘My Heritage’ project for school, the one I started to tell you about, Cindy . . . wait a second, I want to show you something. Tell me,” he said, pulling his wallet out from his back pocket and flipping it open to the snapshot section, “tell me Cindy doesn’t look just like our mother.” Now I hated him. It was our mother reborn as an American teenager and though the hair was done up in an American style, it was still our mother’s thick, blond hair, and her eyes were the same too, she even had the same green vein at the side of her temple. So, not only did he get to have our mother for all his childhood, he got to have her again as a grandchild. But I must not be transparent in any way—at least, he didn’t seem to notice. “Cindy’s a terrific kid, kind, helpful, full of good, clean fun. And of all the kids and grandkids, she’s the one who’s most interested in her Dutch background. Reads everything she can get her hands on.” “You should have brought her over.” “Maybe next time,” he said with what seemed a kind of wistful sadness. Maybe he had some serious illness, I thought, maybe that’s why he’s decided to make the trip and see his brother, though he still hasn’t once called me by name. “She should come,” I said. “Holland has plenty to offer. But teach her one thing from her uncle.” “What’s that?” “Not to ooh and aah over the tulips. I hate tulips. They’re too pretty when they’re alive and look so dead when they die.
But the real reason I hate them is I know what they taste like. In the war, at the end, when there was nothing, we ate them, we ate tulip bulbs.” “I don’t remember that,” he said. “I don’t remember much. And the few memories I do have, I can’t be sure if they’re really true or just stories my mother, our mother, told me.” “You’re lucky then.” “But I want to know what happened. During the war. And just after.” “What for?” “You know the feeling when someone starts to tell you a good story, then right after he gets going he decides he shouldn’t be telling it and just stops. And you try to convince him that once you start a story, you have to finish, it isn’t fair otherwise. Most people will give in to that but sometimes they won’t and you’re left completely frustrated. Well, that’s sort of how I feel about my life, except it’s the beginning I don’t know about.” “And that’s why you came here?” “That’s why I came here, Joop.” “Well, maybe you can tell me a few stories too.” “Maybe I can.” “Except for a few postcards from our mother and the letter you sent when she died, there’s not much I know.” “I know,” he said, dropping his eyes. “I’m sorry.” “Another beer?” “Another beer would be good.” For a second in the kitchen I did not want to go back to the table, to my brother, to the past and all its sorrows. I looked out the window. The sky was a bright blue with a few gray rain clouds. A young woman pedaled by on a black bike, talking on her cell phone. If I had died three years ago in the hospital, none of this would have happened, my brother, the rain cloud, the girl on her bike. But I didn’t die. I went back to the front room. My brother took a long swig of beer. The part of the story he did know—our mother leaving our father, who had been incapacitated by a stroke right after the war—wasn’t too pretty, and the part he didn’t know about wasn’t any prettier. Take a good swig, my lucky American brother, who has so few bad memories that he had to come all the way to Holland to get some. “You know who Anne Frank is?” I asked. “Of course,” he said, as if I had offended his intelligence and Dutch pride. “When they came to get her, they went right to her hiding place.” “I know.” “And that means someone betrayed her.” “But who did it?” he said. “You.” Copyright © 2007 by Richard Lourie. All rights reserved. 
 

Continues...

Excerpted from A Hatred for Tulips by Lourie, Richard Copyright © 2007 by Lourie, Richard. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2008

    Heartbreaking

    While this is a fictionized account of Amsterdam during WWII, it really pulls you in to what life was like under the Nazis. It is hard to imagine today what people went through during those times of occupation but books like this help keep the memories and stories alive for future generations.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2008

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