After a lifetime spent steadfastly ignoring her parents' accounts of their struggle for survival in World War II Poland, novelist Lisa Appignanesi played the "ultimate generation game" as her mother's increasing old age impelled her to discover the truth about her family's past. Growing up as part of an immigrant Jewish family in Canada, she had recoiled at "the implicit message...that you could live through terrible things and come out at the other end to sip a glass of tea or Schnapps". Yet years later she found herself en route to Poland to "excavate" for herself the story of her parents' amazing endurance--and to reclaim her family history.
Appignanesi's parents Hena and Aron, together with her older brother and maternal grandmother, had escaped certain death in the Warsaw ghetto by tenacity, audacity (especially on the part of her mother)- -and the ultimate suppression of their Jewish identity. To this end they were helped out enormously by the heroism and sacrifices of individuals and in particular by Hena's mysterious, fabled brother Arek, who disappeared from view in 1943. Losing the Dead swings effortlessly between Appignanesi's comedic childhood reminiscences, her tireless search through Polish archives and registers for forgotten identities and the dramatic, immediate narrative of her family's day-to-day existence in the terrifying war years. It is a story of loss and deprivation, yet ultimately one of profound understanding, as Appignanesi resurrects her past in order to lay it to rest, proving that Losing the Dead is a truly commemorative memoir.--Catherine Taylor
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Distinguished . . . Appignanesi has a sharp eye for the details of everyday life in the Warsaw ghetto . . . Read Losing the Dead and you begin to appreciate what life must have been like for hundreds of thousands of European Jews during the long nightmare of the Third Reich (The Times
This book crosses genre, combining profound story telling and hard history. It is wonderful and heartbreaking in equal measure, and it remains an astonishing work (Edmund De Waal, Author Of The Hare With Amber Eyes )
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