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Verzamelde verhalen, 1951-1981 by Marga…

Verzamelde verhalen, 1951-1981

by Marga Minco

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Marga Minco is a Dutch Jewish writer who survived World War II and the Holocaust, while her family was murdered. Verzamelde verhalen, 1951-1981 is a collection of her shorter fiction, which appeared during that period between 1951 and 1981. However, a selection has been made. Eleven short stories from the 1950s, and sketches from the 1960s and 1970s are left out. The novella Het huis hiernaast is not included, because it was later extended and rewritten as the novel Een leeg huis. However, all stories which appeared in the collection De andere kant are included, besides various stories which are known from publication in magazines and anthologies. Some of the stories in this collection have appeared in English translations, notably:

"Iets anders" translated as "Something different" in Delta, Vol. 4, No. 1 (1961); and Short Story International Vol. 1, No. 8 (1964) (New York). Translator: Elisabeth Eybers. From De andere kant (1959).

"De vriend" translated as "The Friend" in Trends Vol. 2, No. 4. (1979) (Paisly, Scotland). Translator: Anne Pool. From De andere kant (1959).

"Het dorp van mijn moeder" translated as "My Mother's Village" in Jewish Affairs, Vol. 16, No. 11 (1961) (Johannesburg). Translator: Elisabeth Eybers. From De andere kant (1959).

Verzamelde verhalen, 1951-1981 starts with seven very short stories written in the 1950s. These short stories each relate an absurdity. They are short surrealistic tales which bear no relation to the major concerns of Minco's later work. The short stories which all appeared in De andere kant (1959) all deal with aspects of the Jewish experience shortly before, during and shortly after the war. "Bomen" tells about the symbolic power of trees as witnesses and monuments to history. In "Het adres" the narrator returns to the address from which their family was deported to find that other people have taken possession not only of the house, but all possessions in it, not expecting and regretting the return of the original Jewish owners. "Het dorp van mijn moeder" is about the deportation of Jewish families. "De terugkeer" is about the return of Jewish people who survived the war hidden in farms in the countryside. However, eight years after the war, they are not the only people who have returned, as they listen to their neighbour whistling Nazi march music in his garden. "De dag dat mijn zuster trouwde" reminisces the last day the whole family came together to celebrate the sister's wedding. The precious bouquet of Japanese orchids symbolizes the fragility and transience of the moment, as the flowers whither in a few hours but their fragrance still hovers in the box.

The stories in De andere kant, all included here, are very strong. They often refer to the hostility and coldness with which Jewish survivors were met when they returned to their "homes" although they often found their homes were re-possessed, demolished and their possessions were taken by Dutch people who never expected the Jewish owners to return, while deep shame and embarrassment prevented the Jewish survivors to press their ownership claims more strongly.

Selected short stories, added to the collection deal with aspects of Jewish life during the same period as the stories above. "De mexicaanse hond" about the rise of Hitler, whose maniacal speeches were listened to on the wireless. "De stoep" proves that before the War Jewish people were not too feeble to stand up for their rights. "Het scherm" is a story about collaborators. "Van geluk spreken" is a very short story which shows how thoughtless and stupid it must have sounded to survivors whose whole family had perished and were told after the war that "they had been lucky".

The last story in the collection is a travelogue about the author's visit to Israel, after the war.

The oevre of Marga Minco is relatively modest. She is not a very productive author. However, her stories and thin novels are very carefully composed, very beautifully written and brimful of very careful observations.

The experience of Jewish writers in the Netherlands is varied, despite the fact that there are relatively few who survived the Holocaust. Beside the works of Anne Frank and Etty Hillesum who wrote during the war but perished in concentration camps, the work of other Jewish writers deals with various perspectives on the Holocaust and life in the Netherlands before, during and after the war. Marga Minco was born in 1920. Thus, she was 20 - 25 as she lived through the occupation, and was very conscious and impressionable as she observed the coldness and lack of compassion with which the Dutch population regarded the return of Jewish survivors. ( )
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