Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Non-Downer War Non-Fic

I’ve got World War Two on the brain right now. It could be the post I just wrote about Poland, it could be the anniversary earlier this month of its beginning, or it could be because of all those “Hitler finds out” videos I’ve been watching on YouTube (‘Hitler finds out United breaks guitars’ is, hands down, my fav). Whatever the case, I’ve got a couple of titles for you. Not huge downers, just interesting post-war nonfiction stuff.

I’m continually fascinated by the ways in which people deal with trauma and grief and, when thinking about this post, there were two titles that instantly came to mind.

I’ve always been a big fan of Ursula Hegi’s novels, especially her biggest title, Stones From the River. I remember knowing in my head that the story was taking place in Germany, and so clearly we would be reading about WWII from a German perspective, but there was an actual moment during my reading when I really realized that this was different from the books I had read before on the war, and yet it was exactly the same. Different side of the battlefield, but the emotional impact, loss, and sorrow were the same.

I followed up this story with a nonfiction title (I’m finally getting to the point) by Hegi, Tearing the Silence: on being German in America. Hegi interviewed several German-American adults whose parents participated, in some way, in the war. There was awareness on all of their parts of the devastation wrought by and on their country when they were children. More importantly, they each had some understanding of their parents’ involvement, and the residual effect on themselves. It’s a really interesting perspective, and Hegi delicately explores the grief, guilt, denial, and acceptance of her interviewees.

Another really interesting work is The Great Escape: nine Jews who fled Hitler and changed the world by Kati Marton. It’s about, well, what it says in the title. The nine Hungarian Jews include the director of Casablanca (Michael Curtiz), the author of Darkness at Noon (Arthur Koestler), a renowned photographer (Robert Capa), and a physicist integral to the Manhattan Project (Leo Szilard). Marton describes a pre-, during, and post-war Hungary, and traces the lives of all her subjects. For each man, she examines the effects of the war and of leaving Hungary, as well as their mixed feelings about their pretty substantial and important accomplishments.

Also of interest: our local history and genealogy librarian, Joanne McCarthy from the SG Reference Department, has just pointed me to a new site focussed on Halifax’s role in the war. Designed to showcase some of the remarkable documents in the collection at Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management, it’s an online feature called "An East Coast Port: Halifax in Wartime, 1939-1945"

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