The Department of Missing Persons
Ruth Zylberman, Grace McQuillan
- 192 Pages
- October 3, 2017
- ISBN: 9781628728033
- Trim Size: 5.5in x 8.25in
A startling debut novel about the burden of Holocaust memory and the implacable zest for life.
Thirty-six years after her mother was liberated from Bergen-Belsen, the unnamed narrator lives a comfortable life in Paris. Her mother sees ghosts at every turn, longing to find the family that disappeared behind the miasma of the Holocaust, but she cannot reconcile her mother's trauma to the cheery bustle of daily life that surrounds them. The pain of memories that are not hers haunt her, weighing all too heavily until she is incapacitated by them, unable forge her own future.
As our narrator becomes further entrenched in the past, a letter is sent by the Department of Missing Persons suggesting that her grandfather is not dead, though details of his survival and current situation are unknown. Along with her mother, the narrator begins a desperate hunt, fighting through the past and present, love and loss, and her own vulnerabilities to find the truth and rid them both of their lingering ghosts.
"What does it mean to survive a massive world catastrophe like the Holocaust? Ruth Zylberman's moving novel shows that a violent past produces aftershocks that reach deep into the lives of the children and grandchildren of survivors, threatening to overwhelm their present. The missing persons of the title may well be the living, as well as the dead."Marianne Hirsch, author of The Generation of Postmemory: Writing and Visual Culture After the Holocaust
"A shock . . . Can one make fiction of the unspeakable, the unnarrateable? . . . What is troubling in this novel is how Ruth Zylberman describes the degree to which this past interferes with her and her narrator's love life and even affects the walks she takes with her mother in the streets of Paris." France Info