Nightfather

( 1 )

Overview

Nightfather is a novel about the Holocaust like no other. Written in a deeply affecting style mixing lightness with gravity, it captures not only the experience of the concentration camp, but also its powerful legacy, passed down to a new generation through the enormous bond of love that ties parent and child. In forty brief chapters, the young daughter of a survivor tells of the efforts she and her two brothers make to try to bridge the gulf between themselves and their father that has been formed by his camp ...
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Overview

Nightfather is a novel about the Holocaust like no other. Written in a deeply affecting style mixing lightness with gravity, it captures not only the experience of the concentration camp, but also its powerful legacy, passed down to a new generation through the enormous bond of love that ties parent and child. In forty brief chapters, the young daughter of a survivor tells of the efforts she and her two brothers make to try to bridge the gulf between themselves and their father that has been formed by his camp experiences. Unlike many of his generation, who remain silent, their father feels compelled to repeat the details of his ordeal. The children inhabit two worlds at once: the world of school and their friends, and their father's nightmare world of hunger, gas, and the crematoria. Every ordinary incident - a trip to the zoo, a drive in the country, an invitation to join Brownies - evokes a memory and a story of the camp. What are children to make of stories of humiliation and murder? Where do the stories stop and reality begin? Striving to find a balance, the children consider their father's world in terms of their own. They have had chicken pox and measles; he has "camp." Toothpaste is not only for brushing teeth, but also for emergency use to prevent thirst. As their father prowls restlessly through the house at night, telling them more and more about the camp, the children's essential innocence remains strangely intact, making its horrors at once easier to face and all the more harrowing. Gradually, with accumulating force, the story of one man's imprisonment and the terms of his survival are revealed.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Dutch poet and journalist Friedman's first novel is a harrowing and deeply moving account of three siblings' struggle to understand their father, a Holocaust survivor plagued by nightmares and horrific memories. ``I've had camp,'' Ephraim explains, referring to his ordeal as if it were the flu or measles, hoping to make it more comprehensible to his sullen preteen son, Max, to the younger and more innocent Simon and to his unnamed eight-year-old daughter, who narrates the story in a terse, precocious, lyrical voice. Eventually, Ephraim relives his camp experience with adult candor, telling his offspring of gassings, slave labor, torture and sadistic beatings, of how he murdered a camp boss and of his miraculous liberation and reunion with Bette, his wife and the children's mother. Friedman, whose father was a Holocaust survivor, manages despite all odds to tell her story with a light touch, showing keen insight into the emotional confusion and moral growth that the siblings undergo as they strive to fathom absolute evil and how it has scarred their father. (Sept.)
The ALAN Review - Connie S. Zitlow
Her father "has camp," but the young narrator does not know how or why he has it. Everything this loving family does leads to a concentration camp story told by Ephraim, the father. Because the horrifying details are so much a part of the children's lives, the narrator buries her toys so the SS won't find them, brother Max tries to freeze his feet, and Simon hides toothpaste used to prevent thirst. The children struggle to understand their father, wish he'd play soccer instead of talking about camp, and worry when he is in a tuberculosis sanitorium. By the end of this short novel, details about the death march completely replace accounts of family events. This book, written by the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, was first published in the Netherlands in 1991. With its deceptively simple and lyrical language showing the impact on the children of survivors, it is an important addition to Holocaust literature.
Library Journal
Like the splendid Sunken Red, written by fellow Dutch author Jeroen Brouwers, Friedman's work represents autobiographical fiction told through revelation of what internees suffered during World War II and the effect on their children. While Brouwers's subjects are Dutch families interned by the Japanese in the former Dutch East Indies (today's Indonesia), Friedman's are European Jews in concentration camps. Using a novel approach, Friedman takes as protagonist the young daughter of a camp survivor who incessantly speaks about his wartime experiences. Thus, as Elie Wiesel suggests in an accompanying quote, she "remember[s] things that [she] has not lived." This revelation of atrocities leaves an indelible imprint on the children (there are also two sons), as the most ordinary experiences in their lives-eating dinner, playing soccer, attending religious services-trigger their father's camp memories and prompt yet another story about camp horrors and survival. But, as the reader soon learns, it's one thing to be enlightened by a story, another to be harnessed with a burden. Recommended for Holocaust collections.-Olivia Opello, Onondaga Cty. P.L., Syracuse, N.Y.
School Library Journal
YA-Through the first-person narration of the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, Friedman presents a book that will resonate for readers of all ages, backgrounds, and interests. Each short chapter shows the horrors of Nazi atrocities and the subsequent struggle to make sense of why they happened. That the consequences of the Holocaust continue to manifest themselves is a primary lesson to be learned here-the loss of childhood is a circular occurrence in this family. At the same time, the vignettes point out how little we can understand of the agony suffered in concentration camps. In one chapter, somewhat reminiscent of Anne Frank, the narrator's father tells his tale of survival to his children. His loss gradually becomes their loss, and all joy is dampened. Sadness and helplessness are constant. Although the book is grim and relentlessly intense, the analysis and thought that it offers will provide new insights into the Holocaust and its victims.-Richard Klein, Edison High School, Fairfax County, VA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780892552108
  • Publisher: Persea Books
  • Publication date: 10/28/2002
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Pages: 135
  • Sales rank: 702,099
  • Lexile: 680L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.26 (w) x 7.30 (h) x 0.33 (d)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2000

    Nightfather Review

    Nightfather is a 135-page book written by Carl Friedman. She wrote it in dedication to her father. This book dates back to the1960's and gives first hand information on the Holocaust. The book contains a Jewish family of 5 living in a small, mostly catholic town. As they move through their day to day lives their father talks about all the awful things he had gone through. The constant reminder of Adolf Hitler and his actions are constantly on this mans mind. All he can do to keep himself from going crazy is to talk t his family about it. In the beginning I was confused and lost and came really close to giving up on it. I'm glad I didn't! Towards the middle, the book began to pull me in. As the fathers' stories got more interesting and more intense I began to become more hooked. The Holocaust was a horrifying time and I can't imagine living through what this man and so many others did. On the day of arrival everyone was given a shower which would be the last one they would see for the remainder of their stay. Everyone was invested with lice and was very underfed. Most of the prisoners did not have shoes and only the lucky ones still had rags on their bodies. These people worked long hard days for nothing. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading books written on true-life accounts. Sincerely, Erin Gatrell

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