Author: Julia Franck
Translator: Anthea Bell
Publication Date: October 5, 2010
Synopsis from the Grove Press website:
Winner of the German Book Prize, The Blindness of the Heart is a dark marvel of a novel by one of Europe’s freshest young voices—a family story spanning two world wars and several generations in a German family. In the devastating opening scene, a woman named Helene stands with her seven-year-old son in a provincial German railway station in 1945, amid the chaos of civilians fleeing west. Having survived with him through the horror and deprivation of the war years, she abandons him on the station platform and never returns.You know me and my World War II obsession. I won't be able to pass this one up!
The story quickly circles back to Helene’s childhood with her sister Martha in rural Germany, which came to an abrupt end with the outbreak of the First World War. Their father is sent to the eastern front, and their Jewish mother withdraws from the hostility of her surroundings into a state of mental confusion. In the early 1920s, after their father's death, Helene and Martha move to Berlin, where Helene falls in love with a philosophy student named Carl, and finds a place for herself for the first time. But when Carl dies just before their engagement, life becomes largely meaningless for her, and she takes refuge in her work as a nurse. At a party Helene meets an ambitious civil engineer who wants to build motorways for the Reich and make Helene his wife. Their marriage proves disastrous, but produces a son, and Helene soon finds the love demanded by the little boy more than she can provide.
Julia Franck’s unforgettable English language debut throws new light on life in early-twentieth-century Germany, revealing the breathtaking scope of its citizens’ denial—the “blindness of the heart” that survival often demanded. The reader, however, brings his or her own historical perspective to bear on the events unfolding, and the result is a disturbing and compulsive reading experience about a country ravaged from the inside out.
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