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Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels

Fugitive Pieces (1996)

by Anne Michaels

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2,679673,666 (3.78)1 / 382
In 1940 a boy bursts from the mud of a war-torn Polish city, where he has buried himself to hide from the soldiers who murdered his family. His name is Jakob Beer. He is only seven years old. And although by all rights he should have shared the fate of the other Jews in his village, he has not only survived but been rescued by a Greek geologist, who does not recognize the boy as human until he begins to cry. With this electrifying image, Anne Michaels ushers us into her rapturously acclaimed novel of loss, memory, history, and redemption. As Michaels follows Jakob across two continents, she lets us witness his transformation from a half-wild casualty of the Holocaust to an artist who extracts meaning from its abyss. Filled with mysterious symmetries and rendered in heart-stopping prose, Fugitive Pieces is a triumphant work, a book that should not so much be read as it should be surrendered to.… (more)
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English (58)  Spanish (1)  Piratical (1)  Dutch (1)  Danish (1)  French (1)  German (1)  All languages (64)
Showing 1-5 of 58 (next | show all)
Beautiful, lyrical, haunting. I love it when poets write novels. ( )
  carliwi | Sep 23, 2019 |
This is a very good novel about the aftermath of WWII, particularly on the Jewish community that survives. The first part is told by Jakob Beer, who is a small child when his parents are killed in their home. He escapes and doesn't know the fate of his sister Bella, who haunts the book. Jakob is taken in by a Greek archeologist, Athos, who takes him to his home in Greece and then to Toronto. The setting is very strong and vivid, especially while they are in Greece. Jakob falls in love with words and language.

In the second part, Ben tells his story of being raised by parents who experienced German concentration camps. They have secrets from him that he only learns upon their death. He is influenced by Jakob's writing and knows him tangentially. When Jakob dies, he is sent to retrieve his journals that are believed to be in Greece.

There were many things that I really loved about this book. The writing is beautiful and lyrical, and the ideas are important. I didn't really like the second part though, told from Ben's point of view. I didn't find it to be closely enough related to the first and it was jarring to change narrators. I also didn't like any of the writing describing the various male/female relationships. It just didn't strike me as realistic.

So overall, I think this was a good book and well worth reading, but I didn't find it a great book. ( )
  japaul22 | Jul 7, 2019 |
It's over between us, Anne Michaels. It's not you, it's me. But our relationship is ended. I struggled through 9 pages of this and concluded that it is not written for an 'ordinary' person such as me. I understood almost none of those 9 pages. Paragraphs seemed to have no connection to each other. And each paragraph was obscure from the very first:
"Time is a blind guide"
WTF! And further down that first page:
"I squirmed from the marshy ground like Tollund Man, Grauballe Man, like the boy they uprooted in the middle of Franz Josef Street while they were repairing the road, six hundred cockleshell beads around his neck, a helmet of mud. Dripping with the prune-coloured juices of the peat-sweating bog. Afterbirth of the earth."
Who the hell is "Tollund Man"? or "Grauballe Man"? I'm reasonably educated but I've never heard of these men. Should I stop reading and google them? What's the point of introducing them if the reader won't understand the reference? Just to show how clever you are? This is a book for the elitists, I reckon. People who like reading esoteric poetry and James Joyce. I am not one of those. This is my second Orange Prize winner I've 'read' in a row, and I've abandoned both. The Orange Prize is now a guide to my black list.
Nancy Pearl would not approve of me stopping reading this early, but I haven't got enough life left to waste it on this sort of stuff. ( )
  oldblack | May 24, 2019 |
I read this one in tandme with my wife shortly after returning to Indiana. Despite its thematics, it remains tasteful and, rather, poetic. My use of tasteful is deliberate as The Shoah is all-too-often a device: e.g. The Kindly Ones. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
(8.5) I have waited a long time to read this book but fear I didn't do it justice as it was a busy week with my daughter's wedding and my reading was some what disjointed and lacking in focus. Nonetheless a very good book. It features beautiful poetic writing and philosophical thoughts. ( )
  HelenBaker | Apr 27, 2018 |
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During the Second World War, countless manuscripts -- diaries, memoirs, eyewitness accounts -- were lost or destroyed. Some of these narratives were deliberately hidden--buried in back gardens, tucked into walls and under floors--by those who did not live to retrieve them.
A parable: A respected rabbi is asked to speak to the congregation of a neighboring village. The rabbi, rather famous for his practical wisdom, is approached for advice wherever he goes. Wishing to have a few hours to himself on the train, he disguises himself in shabby clothes and, with his withered posture, passes for a peasant. The disguise is so effective that he evokes disapproving stares and whispered insults from the well-to-do passengers around him. When the rabbi arrives at his destination, he's met by the dignitaries of the community who greet him with warmth and respect, tactfully ignoring his appearance. Those who ridiculed him on the train realize his prominence and their error and immediately beg his forgiveness. The old man is silent. For months after, these Jews - who, after all, consider themselves good an pious men - implore the rabbi to absolve them. Finally, when almost a year has passed, they come to the old man on the Day of Awe when, it is written, each man must forgive his fellow. But the rabbi refuses to speak. Exasperated, they finally raise their voices: How can a holy man commit such a sin -- to withhold forgiveness on this day of days? The rabbi smiles seriously . "All this time you have been asking the wrong man. You must ask the man on the train to forgive you."
The night you and I met, Jakob, I heard you tell my wife that there's a moment when love makes us believe in death for the first time. You recognize the one whose loss, even contemplated, you'll carry forever, like a sleeping child. All grief, anyone's grief, you said, is the weight of a sleeping child.
She was stopping to say goodbye and was caught, in such pain, wanting to rise, wanting to stay.
My father said, 'That man is a Hebrew and he carries the pride of his people.' Later I learned that most of the men who worked at the docks in Salonika were Jews and that the yehudi mahallari, the Hebrew quarter, was built along the harbour.
Translation is a kind of transubstantiation; one poem becomes another. You can choose your philosophy of translation just as you could choose how to live: the free adaptation that sacrifices detail to meaning, the strict crib that sacrifices meaning to exactitude. The poet moves from life to language, the translator moves from language to life; both, like the immigrant, try to identify the invisible, what’s between the lines, the mysterious implications.”
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