Toíbín who? you might ask – as far as I can see he has not yet gathered the attention he definitely deserves. Perhaps his novel “House of Names” can change that. What’s it about?
Nearly all the figures and a great part of the plot is taken from Greek mythology. There is a stalemate before Troy. Agamemnon’s fleet stucks and the sacrifice of his daughter Iphigenia is meant to bring favourable winds. His wife Clytemnestra can’t prevent the murder of her daughter and thinks of revenge. That brings Aegisthus on the stage. To prevent the youngest of this very special family, Orestes, from interfering in this revenge plot he his abducted together with some other young men from powerful families.
It’s absolutely thrilling how Toíbín tells how Orestes and his friend Leander try to escape and come back to their home town. Toíbín uses an unadorned prose where you can’t eliminate a single word. Nevertheless, every very detail of his account is very clear and imaginative. In most parts this novel is a real pageturner, you can’t put it down. All in all: 260 pages of fine literary art with much suspense.
Colm Tóibín, House of Names, Penguin / Random House, ~ 9 € / £
Somehow weird or even pervert: To choose from a list those names that sound “jewish” . Welcome to Berlin 1931, a few months before the Nazis and some years before the Shoah. The picture above suggests really nothing of this drama. In any case I wanted to give those of the school mates of my mother a name that were endangered or slaughtered by the Nazis.
These are further names I found information on: • Lore Strauss, born 2/14/1924. Combined with this name I found also the name “Lore Allard”, she was pupil at the Privaten Waldschule Kaliski, a school that could give quite a lot of attenders a shelter for some time. Lore Allard (Strauss) is mentioned with a letter to L. Kaliski from London dating 11/16/1981. If she is the Lore Strauss from my mother’s school, she had survived the Shoah. • Hanna Markus: The Yad Vashem data base reveals a person called “Hanchen Markus”, from Berlin, but born in 1922. Result unclear • Ruth Baer: for a Ruth Bähr, also born in 1924, living in Berlin, the Yad Vashem data base says “Während des Krieges war sie in Chelmno, Polen. Ruth wurde in der Schoah ermordet.” [She was during the war in Chelmno, Polen. Ruth was murdered during the Shoah.] For another Ruth Bähr the same data base says: “Ruth Bähr wurde 1924 geboren. Vor dem Zweiten Weltkrieg lebte sie in Berlin, Deutsches Reich. Während des Krieges war sie in Berlin, Deutsches Reich und wurde mit transport 4 von Berlin, Berlin (Berlin), Stadt Berlin, Deutsches Reich nach Lodz, Getto, Polen am 01/11/1941 deportiert. Ruth wurde in der Schoah ermordet.” [Ruth Baehr was born in 1924. Prior to WWII she lived in Berlin, Germany. During the war she was in Berlin, Germany. Deported with Transport 4 from Berlin, Berlin (Berlin), City of Berlin, Germany to Lodz,Ghetto,Poland on 01/11/1941. Ruth was murdered in the Shoah.] Whether one of these persons by the name of Ruth Bähr is identical with Ruth Baer, is hard to decide, but possible.
The name list (of my grandmother?) is not that reliable. So I show a picture of the whole form of my mother at a school party on top of this page.
A list of those on the picture, but the list was obviously produced later.
No one would associate these pictures with the genocide to come: Many girls having fun at a birthday party. I also found these pictures in the photo album of my mother. It shows Lili Cassel (first in the row, picture on top) with her friends in May 1931 in Berlin. My mother is the second to last. Fortunately Lili Cassel could escape to England with her sister Ewa. Later the whole family emigrated to the U.S.
In 1952 Lili married Erich Wronker and was in her professional life a renowned illustrator of books and a Hebrew calligrapher and typograph. She got an obituary in the NY Times when she died in January 2019. Shalom, Lili
A letter to Lili’s nanny from 1933 can be seen here.
In the beginning of the thirties my mother lived in Berlin Dahlem. She attended the Volksschule Lansstraße (?) in this quarter. Looking at two atmospheric pictures from her photo album I wondered what might have happened to her Jewish school mates, Martha Esther Hirschberg and her brother Walter Joseph (“Seppl”) Hirschberg. The photo was labeled “Mit Martha und Seppl Hirschberg Juli 1931” (“With Martha and Seppl Hirschberg July 1931”).
Looking on MyHeritage I got to know to my relief that both had survived World War II and the Shoah: Martha Esther Hirschberg died in 1979 and Walter Joseph Hirschberg in 1998. Apparently, Walter Joseph Hirschberg emigrated to San Diego. It would be nice to gain more information on both and the school they attended. I would be happy to send my photos to relatives of the Hirschberg siblings.
An epoch-making, somehow vague event in the past divides the country in a time before and a time after the Change. The whole British island is protected by something reminding the Chinese wall: the Wall. Beaches are something from old ages, as far as the young are concerned. Every young woman and man has to serve on this Wall for two strenuous years. Consequences are extrem: If the Others – the foe – can overcome the Wall, the people from the Guard will be punished by set on tiny boats on the ocean.
This is the sound of John Lanchesters novel published in the mid-Brexit UK. In Covid19 times future readers might read it in a simular way: the time before and the time after Covid19. Gloomy dystopian novelle, a little bit soothed by the story of a couple – the word love story would be too much. Covid19 time is reading time.