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All That I Am Hardcover – 15 Sep 2011
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|Hardcover, 15 Sep 2011||
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Anna Funder proved herself a first-rate reporter with Stasiland - now she appears as a compelling novelist in a dark story of German emigres in the 1930s, struggling to warn the indifferent English against the Nazis (Claire Tomalin)
The subtlety of Anna Funder's novel is in the elegance of her precise prose, and in her painstaking portrait of an ordinary woman swept up in extraordinary events...The result is a strong and impressively humane novel (Ruth Scurr TLS)
A superb novel that transcends its setting...This book is a wonder. Do, please, read it (The Spectator)
History, like hope, is not something to be solved, but to be carried. Anna Funder has written an essential novel about how we carry the bricks of history on our backs, and how we continually build new homes from the material of the past. All That I Am is an intimate exploration of human connection and our responsibility to one another. Funder breathes life into Kundera's aperçu that the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting (Colum McCann)
A seamless and powerful tale...the book is far more than "faction"; Funder has successfully transformed the material into a narrative of individual endeavour and survival, that examines universal human themes...Dora and Ruth, especially, convey a sense of truthfulness and decency that transcends their time and should inspire us, even now, to expose injustice and tyranny (Rachel Hore Independent on Sunday)
The strengths of Funder's writing are emotional and imaginative.In what she has to say about love, loss and betrayal there is profound truth (The Times)
About the Author
Anna Funder is the author of the international bestseller Stasiland, which won the 2004 Samuel Johnson Prize and was published in 20 countries and translated into 16 languages. She is the recipient of numerous awards, and a former DAAD and Rockefeller Foundation Fellow. Anna Funder grew up in Melbourne and Paris and lives in Sydney with her husband and family.
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It does however pose a few problems
Funder has chosen to write a broadly biographical novel about several real individuals. In particular, Ernst Toller, World War 1 veteran, expressionist playwright and briefly, 6 day president of the Bavarian Soviet Republic in 1919, Dora Fabian, academic, journalist, writer and anti-Nazi activist, whom Fenner Brockway described as "one of the most courageous persons I have ever met", and Hans Wesemann, another left-wing anti-Nazi refugee, World War 1 veteran and journalist, whose journey, once a refugee, became a darker one
Into their stories (broadly, so we understand from Funder's afterword) accurate, Funder inserts as one of the major voices `Ruth Wesemann/Ruth Becker) This `character' is modelled on, and in fact `in homage to a lady Funder knew, Ruth Blatt-Koplowitz, who indeed was part of the circle, but did not stand in relationship to Hans Wesemann as described in this story.
I must admit that I was very absorbed in the novel, told in alternate chapters by Toller and Ruth, and across different timescales - Toller in New York, at the tail of the thirties, looking back on those London times some few years earlier, and Ruth, an elderly, dying lady in Australia at the start of the this century, looking back on her life, and those terrible times
Many of the events described were authentic, and I assumed, until I got to the afterword, that Funder (particularly because her first book was factual, Stasiland) was writing a fictionalised account of something which was factual.
But to discover how she made fast and free with the real Ruth Blatt-Koplowitz, particularly in terms of her central relationship, I'm afraid left a nasty taste.
There are times, particularly when `fictionalising' real people's lives and not coming CLEAN on what is true and what is invented, when these are people of a modern era, with, no doubt, still living descendants, friends, relatives, that a kind of lie is being propagated.
My ending distaste is ethical really. Funder is a fine writer, and had she been more honest about her invented use of Blatt-Koplowicz I would not be left feeling quite so queasy. In the end, it feels a little like this so very serious history has been trifled with.
Star rating it has proved enormously difficult. Had 'Ruth' been a completely invented character within the mix this would have been 5 star for me, but it is the taking aspects - and name, of one person's life and 'mixing it up' WITHOUT identifying the mix up that pulled this down for me. It was in my desire to know more, which the excellence of Funder's writing had pulled me to, that created the great unease, finally, as my own research revealed the 'mis-use' (in my mind) of Ruth Blatt-Koplowitz.
Thus when "All That I Am" came into print I wanted to read it. I also wanted to wait for the paperback (being a meanie) but the temptation was too strong and when Amazon put it on special offer I lapsed and bought it in hardback.
Once I'd received it I let it sit for a while on my "To Read" bookshelf because I just knew that as soon as I picked it up I wouldn't be able to put it down and so I had to make the window for reading it. My lady was away for a few days last week and I booked two consecutive days off work.
As soon as I picked it off the shelf and opened it pre-WWII Berlin sprung to life. Anna Funder's writing is just so human, descriptive and personal without flounces. The two protagonists, Ruth and Ernst, were both real people: both anti-nazi and socialist, who survived the war and as the book flicks backwards into their individual histories the story unfolds, bringing a host of other vivid characters and tales of heroism, despair and sometimes treachery.
This is a book about people and their flaws and stregnths. It is a book about survival and a book that should be read by all who love humanity.
i would urge readers who dropped off around page 100 to persist - it is heavy going, but be rewarded by the rest of the journey through a world that is too frighteningly close to be dismissed as a historical abberation in the human journey. i think Anna Funder is an extraordinary writer - the depth of research, the weaving together of the detail of the tyranny, i hope there will be more books from her - this was exceptional and you can see her development as a master since Stasiland. When she finds a way to weld her objectivity to a personal commentary on the dark side she chronicles, she will be somebody with something to say - in the tradition and with the authority of Orwell. To create this, to capture this, what a woman she must be!
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