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by Henryk Grynberg, Richard Lourie (Translator)

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Winner of 1996 Jan Karski and Pola Norenska Prize for contribution to Polish culture and science by a Pole of Jewish origin awarded by the Yivo Institute.


Winner of 1996 Jan Karski and Pola Norenska Prize for contribution to Polish culture and science by a Pole of Jewish origin awarded by the Yivo Institute.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This novella is part of a series in which Grynberg, a Polish-Jewish Holocaust survivor who emigrated to the U.S. in 1968, fictionalizes the events of his life from WW II onward. This volume follows events from the last weeks of the war through the Communist takeover of Poland. The unnamed narrator, a nine-year-old boy, and his widowed mother have survived the war by passing as Aryans, and they must decide how to live in the aftermath of brutality. The boy insists to his mother, ``I don't want to be Jewish anymore.'' The mother takes up with a Russian officer who is eventually sent back to the front. Finally, she marries an old flame, himself a widower. He is entrapped by an informer in a black-market currency scheme and sentenced to a labor camp. Grynberg's deadpan, uninflected prose becomes wearing after a while, but the book has moments of appalling power, particularly in its scenes of violence. Perhaps its most effective moment comes when a German soldier is stoned to death by a crowd of outraged Jewish survivors, an act that is immediately followed by an even more horrifying one, the beating of a mute boy who is mistaken for a German. (Dec.)
Library Journal
This grim tale of a mother and son who survive the Nazi horrors in Poland is seen through the eyes of the young boy. The pair had obtained Aryan identity papers and spent the war years denying their Jewishness. Returning to their village, they find that only two families have survived. The boy's father was likely killed by Polish peasants, while remaining family members were taken to Treblinka. The ``victory'' of the title is hollow at best: ``Out of the one hundred Jewish families, only the Fryds and the Nusens survived, but all the houses in Dobre were taken and we had no place to live.'' They move to another town and start to build a life for themselves, but the boy is filled with so much unresolved anger at what has happened that he wants to deny his Jewishness as he acts out violently with other children. This slim volume was written after the author (on whom the young narrator is based) sought political asylum in the United States in 1967. How people cope in the face of such tragedy, and how they try to maintain a shred of dignity in their lives while grappling with difficult choices gives this book its power.-Molly Abramowitz, Silver Spring, Md.

Product Details

Northwestern University Press
Publication date:
Writings from an Unbound Europe
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
4.75(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)

Meet the Author

Henryk Grynberg (born in 1936 in Warsaw) is a Polish-Jewish writer and actor who survived the Nazi occupation. He was an award-winning novelist, short-story writer, poet, playwright and essayist who had authored more than thirty books of prose and poetry and two dramas. Grynberg, known as the “chronicler of the fate of the Polish Jews”, tackled in his writings the Holocaust experience and the post-Holocaust trauma.

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