Saturday, August 21, 2010

One Last Sweet Summer Read

All books published posthumously come to us shrink-wrapped in heartache, from a voice we know has already been extinguished. There is more sadness still in a subgroup of this category: books that come from manuscripts abandoned during wartime or hidden for safekeeping and discovered when the fighting is over, when the text is all that's left of the author.

A brief list of such books: The Diary of Anne Frank, Irene Nemirovsky Suite Francaise, Charlotte Salomon's autobiographical notebook-size gouaches with text, 769 individual pages, that she called Life? Or Theater? The last is not a book in the old-fashioned sense -- its pages are exhibited in museums and Salomon arranged them as acts in a play -- but I'm comfortable thinking of it as an early graphic novel. It tells the story of a gifted young artist in Berlin whose Jewish parents sent her to live with relatives in France before the Occupation, certain she would be safe there. It was only when they went to find her in 1947 that they learned she had died at Auschwitz -- and left a carton containing an illustrated account of her life, including her harrowing final years in a world gone mad. "Keep this safe," she had told a friend. "It is my whole life." To read more....

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