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The Postcard (2021)

por Anne Berest

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4052662,795 (4.42)47
"Anne Berest's The Postcard is among the most acclaimed and beloved French novels of recent years. Luminous and gripping to the very last page, it is an enthralling investigation into family secrets, a poignant tale of mothers and daughters, and a vivid portrait of twentieth-century Parisian intellectual and artistic life. January, 2003. Together with the usual holiday cards, an anonymous postcard is delivered to the Berest family home. On the front, a photo of the Opéra Garnier in Paris. On the back, the names of Anne Berest's maternal great-grandparents, Ephraïm and Emma, and their children, Noémie and Jacques--all killed at Auschwitz. Fifteen years after the postcard is delivered, Anne, the heroine of this novel, is moved to discover who sent it and why. Aided by her chain-smoking mother, family members, friends, associates, a private detective, a graphologist, and many others, she embarks on a journey to discover the fate of the Rabinovitch family: their flight from Russia following the revolution, their journey to Latvia, Palestine, and Paris. What emerges is a moving saga of a family devastated by the Holocaust and partly restored through the power of storytelling that shatters long-held certainties about Anne's family, her country, and herself." --… (mais)
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Inglês (22)  Espanhol (2)  Francês (2)  Todas as línguas (26)
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The author has done a lot of research and, at times, it seemed like she was more interested in showing what she'd learned than telling a story. But, somehow, she made it work...a real tribute to her. Her main character, Anne's, reflections on intergenerational trauma and her own Jewishness -- secular, but descended from Holocaust survivors, told a often-told story in a new way. I saw more about individual families, struggling with whether to leave Germany or not, wondering if they were safe there, or would be safe anywhere. Wrestling whether to comply with requirements to register as a Jew or not. Trying, in the face of so much uncertainty, to make what would turn out to be life and death decisions.

The resolution of who sent the title Postcard was, I thought, weak. But I still appreciated the unique perspective this book brought to my knowledge of this terrible episode of human history. ( )
  LynnB | Apr 22, 2024 |
The Postcard was a finalist for the Goncourt Prize, and a bestseller in France. And that's interesting, because everybody's favourite tourist destination doesn't come out of it very well in this story that is a mystery, a portrait of Parisian intellectual and artistic life in the 20th century, and a devastating portrayal of how antisemitism still lingers in the France which deported so many French Jews to their deaths in Germany.

But first, the cover image. I was still reading the first of four parts in this book when it occurred to me to look for the source of the arresting portrait on the cover. It's not a cleverly chosen stock image, it's an authentic photo of Noémie Rabinovitch in 1941. Born in 1923 in Latvia, she was the younger sister of Anne Berest's grandmother, Myriam. She wanted to be a writer.

And while we should never make the mistake of mourning the loss of attractive people in the Holocaust more than those who are less appealing to look at, the intelligence and vitality of that young woman is a reminder that the Holocaust was a loss to humanity. The world lost scientists, artists, musicians, inventors and writers, as well as 'ordinary' people who deserved to live just as much as anyone else. What might that young woman have done with her life had she lived?

She might have written a magnificent book like this one.

The prologue begins with the postcard in the narrator's mother's 'archive'. Anne tells the story of Lélia receiving it in 2003, when she was twenty-four:
What caught my mother's attention right away was the handwriting, strange and awkward, like no handwriting she had ever seen before. Then she read the four names, written in the form of a list.

Ephraim
Emma
Noémie
Jacques (p.12)

And that was all, nothing else, except the stamp and the address.

The family knows who these people are. They were Léila's maternal grandparents and her aunt and uncle. They were all deported from France and had died in Auschwitz in 1942, more than sixty years ago.
My mother felt a jolt of fear, as if someone were threatening her, someone lurking in the darkness of the past. Her hands began to tremble. (p.12)

Now, years later after an antisemitic incident at her daughter's school, the narrator, Anne — a secular Jew — embarks on a quest to find out who sent this enigmatic postcard. It seems impossible, but the book tells an intriguing tale of leads and red herrings drawn from her mother's recollections and rambling stories. A private detective helps, and so does a graphologist, both of them somewhat overwhelmed by the task because they usually work with pettier quests. People who knew these four people are dead now, but descendants of those who knew the sole surviving sibling Myriam, sometimes know a scrap of information, leading to stories of flight, of the French Resistance, and of venal complicity.

To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2024/04/22/the-postcard-by-anne-berest-translated-by-ti... ( )
  anzlitlovers | Apr 21, 2024 |
The Postcard, Anne Berest, author; Barrie Kealoha narrator; Tina Kover, translator
I finished the book and asked myself, how many books is it possible to read about the Holocaust and still discover something new? For instance, I did not know that tattoos were stamped on the chest, at first, before tattooed on the wrist. Therefore, my answer apparently, is that there is no number, for every book I read enlightens me a bit further. The enlightenment, however, is always horrifying, but it is important that all of the memories and facts about that awful historic time are aired in the light of day, and remembered, especially in light of the massacre that took place in Israel, on October 7th, 2023, inexplicably carried out by Hamas, even as the Israelis danced at a hopeful peace concert and those residents of border communities with Gaza, people who tried to help the Palestinians by hiring them and engaging with them, were slaughtered unmercifully. Jew-hatred and barbarism are alive and well.
Although this is a novel based on the author’s family history, it is especially pertinent and poignant to read it in the current atmosphere of unexplained Jewish hate permeating society in the United States, today. Although one would have thought the memory of the Holocaust would have served to prevent another incident of horror against the Jews, it would be an incorrect assumption. We are witnessing the subtle advance of hate and the demonization of the Jews once again, by the media and the politicians in power. Slowly, the message is being corrupted so that the innocent are charged as guilty and the guilty are excused. Once again, the victim is being blamed instead of the villain.
In this is a novel, it is based on the author’s ancestry. Her grandparents settled in Palestine, the name chosen by the Brits, in the early part of the 20th century, to live a quieter more peaceful and free life, to escape the pogroms, and the rising antisemitic atmosphere in Europe. They advised their children to disperse further into Europe and to leave Russia, in order to be safer. None wanted to move with them to Palestine, however.
Unlike Lélia, who held her memories in secret and refused to revisit the time of her family’s horror, we Jews today must make sure we force everyone to remember our horrific past, and remind those who do not, or educate those that are unaware, or there will be many more Holocausts and October 7ths to follow. It is horribly sad today, to witness the offspring of many jews who do not remember our past, or have not learned from it, as they march with their very enemies, the enemy that is intent on killing them. They hope that they can change their minds, while they happily and foolishly condemn their own people. Over centuries, and now recent decades, it has been shown, again and again, that they cannot change the hearts and minds of those committed to hate them, no matter how hard they try.
In the novel, the reader follows the path of the Rabinovitch family as they travel to Palestine, Latvia, France and Israel, as their lives unravel in all of those places. The echo of the pain and suffering of the Jews travels down through the years and taints all those it touches, right into the future. The author tries to get behind the mindset that made the choices to go to one place or another, act in one way or another. This novel, that is cloaked in the true history of the Rabinovitch family, perhaps explores what it means to be a Jew, and what it is that Jewish survival entails.
In 2003, a postcard arrives at the home of the author’s mother, Lélia. Her mother refuses to think about who might have sent it or why anyone would have sent it so many years after 1942, the year that the people who are named on the card, Ephraim, Emma, Noémie and Jacques, were murdered in Auschwitz. These were the names of the author’s grandparents and two of their children. The third child, not listed, was her grandmother, Myriam, Lélia’s mother. Lélia, Anne’s mother, had always felt abandoned by Myriam. Now, in a sense, Lélia was abandoning her own daughter, the author, as she searched for answers to her past and hit a brick wall with her mother, Lélia.
A child related to survivors somehow feels and bears their scars. Anne is no different. She has always felt unsettled. Raised in a totally secular world, she had little connection with Judaism or her ancestry. She knew that she was indeed a Jew, since her mother was, even though her father was not, but she wanted to know more. Her mother discouraged her interest and research. As Anne’s thirst for the knowledge of her lineage was ignited, her mother remained silent for more than a decade. Then, Anne’s daughter Claire told her grandmother about an antisemitic incident that she was exposed to at her school. Lélia made a bargain with Anne. If Anne would take this incident to the child’s principal, no matter how fruitful or not, it would turn out, she would help her uncover her history and the identity of the person who mailed the postcard. Surely, each of us must be remembered as much as we must remember our history, in order to prevent it from happening again.
As the winds of war began again to blow in Europe, the family was faced with the prospect of moving on again, or of facing violence. This is the story of what happened to those members of the family who became trapped in Hitler’s web of barbarism, and an explanation of how and why so many became trapped and were unable to escape.
As Hitler advanced, and as time passed, the Jewish people’s activities were slowly and subtly, on occasion, more and more stifled, until finally, before they realized what had happened, they had no rights at all and were being rounded up and marched off to camps intended to cull them from society permanently. Think about this, if Hitler had succeeded, this book would not have been written. Think about what the world has lost with their loss. There were many people, good or otherwise, Jewish or otherwise, that promoted Hitler’s cause for selfish reasons. I shudder to think how like today it feels! Jews are marching with their enemies, the Palestinians, who scream from the river to the sea, essentially wanting to drive them out of Israel and the world, once again. Their message appears to be winning, so we are behooved to wonder if we have learned anything from our past. Like the Rabinovitch children, my children were called “dirty jews” in New Jersey and were subjected to antisemitic comments by a teacher in Minnesota. Once, I was told to be happy I didn’t live in Germany, by the mayor of the town of West Caldwell, New Jersey. What did I do about it? While I did address it with those in charge, I had no support and therefore failed to stop it. I was supplied with glib answers…oh the comment was just a euphemism, when the teacher told a joke about how the Jews got into the desert because someone threw in a quarter.
Because we have failed to address our enemies for what they are, we are now, watching our own children marching with the screaming meemies, and the unexplained and undeserved fury will only get worse. Will Jews and others, gays and blacks, wake up and stop supporting those who actually despise them and only pretend to accept and support them because they are serving their purpose. They would just as soon stone the “loose” women or throw the lgbtq+ community from the rooftop, as they have in other countries.
The book may be asking the question, what does it mean to be Jewish? I think it is more about asking what does it means to be a human being, and sadly, I do not think many people qualify today. Denying a problem does not make it go away, it simply festers and worsens. We must face our current situation bravely, as so many faced Hitler and Hamas with courage and character. Survivor’s guilt must come to an end along with the indifference to the problems that we witness, and the refusal to believe that man’ inhumanity to man is alive and well and comes from unexpected sources. We need to end our naïvete so we can overcome our enemies. David must slay Goliath, once again.
When the author used the term “they forced you to lie, and then called you a liar, was it not eerily similar to the current justice system in the United States today? Although it was blamed on the far right during WW II, today the left seems to be using the same tactics, creating chaos, confusion and hate as rights are slowly eliminated for some and granted to others who willingly accuse the innocent of crimes they have not committed in order to advance themselves. Will we wake up in time to prevent a repeat performance of the barbarism? Slowly and subtly, in America today, some people are being silenced as others are being advantaged unfairly, once again. Open your eyes. ( )
1 vote thewanderingjew | Apr 8, 2024 |
Breathtakingly brilliant! ( )
  Faradaydon | Mar 3, 2024 |
Anne Berest writes a beautiful novel, in which she tells of her family's history, and what it means to be Jewish. Much of this has truth and facts behind it, but is written as fiction.
In 2003, Anne's mother receives a postcard. On the postcard are the names of her grandparents and her aunt and uncle. Just 4 names, nothing else. This starts a conversation between Anne and her mother. Then in 2019, Anne decides to try to determine who sent the postcard. This has her searching her family history, and learning about the hardships they endured. She comes to terms with her heritage. Interesting discovery is who sent the postcard and why. ( )
  rmarcin | Jan 22, 2024 |
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This book is dedicated to Gregoire, and to all the descendants of the Rabinovitch family.
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"Anne Berest's The Postcard is among the most acclaimed and beloved French novels of recent years. Luminous and gripping to the very last page, it is an enthralling investigation into family secrets, a poignant tale of mothers and daughters, and a vivid portrait of twentieth-century Parisian intellectual and artistic life. January, 2003. Together with the usual holiday cards, an anonymous postcard is delivered to the Berest family home. On the front, a photo of the Opéra Garnier in Paris. On the back, the names of Anne Berest's maternal great-grandparents, Ephraïm and Emma, and their children, Noémie and Jacques--all killed at Auschwitz. Fifteen years after the postcard is delivered, Anne, the heroine of this novel, is moved to discover who sent it and why. Aided by her chain-smoking mother, family members, friends, associates, a private detective, a graphologist, and many others, she embarks on a journey to discover the fate of the Rabinovitch family: their flight from Russia following the revolution, their journey to Latvia, Palestine, and Paris. What emerges is a moving saga of a family devastated by the Holocaust and partly restored through the power of storytelling that shatters long-held certainties about Anne's family, her country, and herself." --

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