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Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels
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Fugitive Pieces (1996)

by Anne Michaels

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2,430552,548 (3.79)1 / 337
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English (52)  Piratical (1)  Dutch (1)  Spanish (1)  All (55)
Showing 1-5 of 52 (next | show all)
This book gets by on the words more than the characters or the story, which I believe was the intention but still left me wanting. Yes, every sentence was carefully constructed, there were scads of beautiful images, one after the other. It's a very poetic novel, but that's all it was to me. Moments of it were very compelling, but it failed to really resonate with me.

Also, though this has nothing to do with the quality of the book, it's completely strange for me to see my own name in a printed work, as Michaela is really not that common (at least, I do think this is the first time I've ever seen in in a book). I'm not used to dissociating the name from my own identity.

I had to laugh at the cover. McClelland & Stewart, thoroughly Canadian publishers, have a partially obscured clip of a photograph on the cover that is the same photograph featured on the cover of my M&S version of The Divine Ryans: a boy hopping over a gravestone. It makes me wonder if M&S have some sort of Metaphorical ImageBank. Search keywords: "boy overcoming death" OR "boy transcending past" "period: 1900 - 1960" (or any such combination) and you get this one. And the publishers say "Oh, we've already used that, but it's so good. Why don't we just plant his face in the spine and maybe no one will notice we used this twice."

It makes me want to see how many other McClelland & Stewart publications use this image. ( )
  likecymbeline | Apr 1, 2017 |
Way too intellectual for me. Got halfway, stuck in a deep philosophical discussion of time, space, history and memory. That's the problem with this book: story and character are subordinate to the author's ideas and theories. I do not succeed in identifying with the main character and half of the statements leave me baffled: utter nonsense or deep truth? ( )
  stef7sa | Jan 5, 2017 |
This was a strange book, the tale of a WW2 Jewish refugee who is initially harboured on a Greek island before emigrating to Canada. Michaels writes her own prose, and the style forms a major part of the work. This is deep writing which would benefit not only from a second reading, but probably many more.

The entire first person narrative is overshadowed by the opening scene. Nazi troops break into a family home and Jakob flees. His initial flight is a whirlwind of imagery as this small boy attempts to come to terms with what has happened while at the same time adapt to life on the run in rural Poland.

Once he is given refuge and smuggled to Greece, the story shifts, and we find ourselves in a world illuminated by Greece and all the philosophy and learning it has to offer through Athos, Jakob’s new guardian. Despite the Mediterranean light, the darkness of the book’s beginning constantly haunts the writing and Michaels’ use of metaphor adds to the foreboding.

Once the pair arrive in Toronto and Jakob grows up, the narrative increases its pace albeit with the same burden of loss, grief and sorrow. Jakob goes through a couple of relationships which are inevitably stained with the dye of the opening tragedy. Whereas Wife 1 can’t accept this, Wife 2 seems far more accommodating.

There are two ‘books’ in this novel. The first one I’ve just described, and it was this that worked for me. The second which is a about a third of the book, shifts to the perspective of some other guy researching Jakob, his work and life. I could have taken or left this. It just didn’t have the impact of the first, quite possibly because of the third party viewpoint. That was a shame for me because I think it distracted from an excellent first-person narrative. ( )
  arukiyomi | Dec 17, 2016 |
There was a lyrical, magical intensity until Athos’ death, then a gradual sloughing of meaning and intensity until Part Two which I found jangling and distasteful.
( )
  ShelleyAlberta | Jun 4, 2016 |
I'm hovering between four and five for this. A million stars for the sections narrated by Jakob, but I was less fond of the latter two or three narrated by Ben. Still, reading some reviews, I was expecting something more obfuscating than what I got. This hit my sweet spot of lyrical but intelligible. Recommended!
  hoegbottom | Jan 30, 2016 |
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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.
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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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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679776591, Paperback)

Anne Michaels, an accomplished poet, has already published two collections of poetry in her native Canada. She turns her hand to fiction in an impressive debut novel, Fugitive Pieces. This is the story of Jakob Beer, a Polish Jew, translator, and poet who, as a child, witnessed his family's slaughter at the hands of the Nazis. Beer himself was found and smuggled out of Poland by Athos Roussos, a Greek archaeologist who carried him back to Greece and kept him there in precarious safety. After the war they emigrated together to Canada. Jakob's story is told through diaries discovered by Ben, a young man whose parents are Holocaust survivors and who is a vessel for their memories just as Jakob is the bearer of his own.

Fugitive Pieces is a book about memory and forgetting. How is it possible to love the living when our hearts are still with the dead? What is the difference between what historical fact tells us and what we remember? More than that, the novel is a meditation on the power of language to free our souls and allow us to find our own destinies.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:36 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

A tale of Holocaust survival whose protagonist is Jakob Beer, a Jewish boy in Poland. He is saved from death by a Greek scientist who takes him home to his island, where Beer develops an interest in archeology. He describes the way the Nazis manipulated archeology to prove the superiority of the Aryan race. A first novel.… (more)

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