two sad, beautiful novellas. a subtle lyricism that reminded sometimes of early handke, sometimes of the edgy desperation portrayed so well by elena ferrante. at yet other times what was brought to mind — even though honigmann here risks sentiment much more — was sebald’s sacred, dry handling of the stories of refugees and immigrants. what stands out however is an emotional and graceful prose that embodies outsider and diaspora life, its various defeats and small, bittersweet triumphs.
A LOVE MADE OUT OF NOTHING tells a story similar to honigmann’s biography. here, an adult daughter of a german jewish father and a bulgarian jewish mother self-exiles herself from east berlin to a lonely paris.
one of the more incredible bits is when she discovers her father’s diary entries from 1946, when he returns to germany. an almost casual description of the situation he then found himself in: “Someone asks us if we’re Italian. They no longer remember what Jews look like” (71)
the second novella ZOHARA’S JOURNEY is more straight-forward, in a way, and becomes, by its end, a semi-adventure story (before a final collapse). another great portrait, it speaks of a sephardic jewish refugee from algeria living in france with her six kids — a woman cruelly trapped by fate and her crooked, confidence-man husband.
i hope there’s more of her soon in english.