Amid all the horror documented here, there is honor and decency, too the Italians saved more than 40, Jews in the last two years of the war.
Share story. By Melinda Bargreen. Christians debate damnation in the play 'The Christians,' performed in Seattle churches.
Melinda Bargreen : mbargreen gmail. Recapitulating his story reminds one of the colossal risks the author takes in her quest for even-handedness. Even the Teuton, with the blood of lebensunwerten Lebens on his hands he has practised eugenic murder can edge through the thread-thin needle's eye.
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The most moving characters are year-old Claudette Blum and her Jewish scholar-father, Albert, crossing the Alps, she in an adolescent tantrum, he bottling his ire at her antics. The tragicomic pair are treated with tender wit. Russell's simple style is able to morph into a language of intimacy, comedy, punchy action, and sheer sublimity.
Like the bare parataxis of the Old Testament, giving the sense that things "came to pass", unaccountably but incontrovertibly, this style lends dignity to ordinariness.
A Thread of Grace
When the inhabitants of Santa Chiara, a village "snug in a deep ravine", turn out to greet "the Hebrews", the scene achieves biblical grandeur. The comic key, however, is never abandoned: excited children run in and out with "chicken-cackle giggles".
But tragic irony underwrites every detail: we know that Claudette's mother and brothers, left behind in relative safety on a train, have been abandoned to Vernichtung extermination in the east. Claudette goes on to marry the Italian soldier, Santino, bears his child, loses them both, and ends her war as a year-old partisan with a rifle.
The good people of Santa Maria
A Thread of Grace, which begins with a vignette of Hitler and his mother, Klara, in , ends with Claudette dead in a Canadian hospice in The brilliant girl of the war years, turned to ice by her experiences, has never opened up to her three children. The epitaph of the first child is, "A cold-hearted bitch"; a second, "An emotional deaf mute"; a third, "She never really dealt with her losses".
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These facile judgments carry bitter narrative irony, for historically Holocaust survivors' silence about their trauma was maintained in order to spare their children. Russell's magnificent novel is a testament on behalf of persecuted people, which observes its pledge to testify in a spirit of sympathy and gratitude.
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