‘Keep Saying Their Names,’ a novel by Simon Stranger
WHO: Simon Stranger
WHAT: KEEP SAYING THEIR NAMES, a novel
WHEN: Published by Knopf May 24, 2020
WHERE: The author lives in Norway.
WHY: “This tale of triumph and compassion is a testament to courage in the face of the darkest evil.
“Simon Stranger’s English-language debut blends fact and fiction in a haunting tale of a Jewish family impacted by the horrors of WWII.
“The narrator, an unnamed writer, is the grandson-in-law of Hirsch Komissar, one of 10 prisoners executed randomly by the Nazis in 1942 in reprisal for acts of sabotage by the Norwegian resistance. Hirsch’s murderer, Henry Oliver Rinnan, was, historically, a notorious Nazi collaborator who perpetrated atrocities in the Gang Monastery, an interrogation house in Trondheim. After identifying Rinnan, the narrator proceeds with ‘a story so monstrous and unlikely that at first I couldn’t bring myself to believe it was true’ — in a ghoulishly ironic twist, the monastery became the home of Hirsch’s son, Gerson, and his family after the war.
“Stranger interweaves the narrator’s account of Rinnan’s despicable rise and fall with the story of Gerson and his wife, Ellen, whose marriage gradually crumbles under the weight of their home’s malignant legacy. Despite the grim subject, Stranger succeeds in shining a light of hope by keeping the memory of the dead alive.”
. . . . .
FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE BOOK:
A for accusation.
A for arrest.
A for all that will disappear and slide into oblivion. All our memories and feelings. All our property and possessions. All that makes up the framework of a life. The chairs one used to sit in and the bed one used to sleep in will be carried out and placed in a new home. Our plates will be laid out on the table by new hands and the glasses raised to someone else’s lips, who will sip the water or the wine, before resuming their conversation. Items once loaded with history will lose all their meaning and be transformed to mere shapes, like a piano might appear to a deer or a beetle.
One day it will happen. One day will be the last for all of us, none of us knowing when, or how.