Friday, October 14, 2011

Me, You-Erri DeLuca and Beth Archer Brombert (Translator)

Me, You

Erri DeLuca and Beth Archer Brombert (Translator)

Other Press, Dec 1 2011, $12.95

ISBN: 9781590514795

In the 1950s the teen spends the summer with his uncle and Nicola on a Neapolitan barrier island. The lad stays mostly with Nicola who uses the uncle’s boat to fish and taught the sixteen year old how to fish.

He meets Caia, a Yugoslavian war orphan who was rescued from Nazi atrocities that left her family dead by Italian soldiers. She is spending the summer on the island with a friend. Nicola warns him to be careful with his affections. Still he falls in love with Caia who is Jewish and begins to explore Italy's role in World War II in which his father was a soldier. The Slav and the Italian teen forge a tender relationship as she allows him to use the Yiddish pronunciation of her name "Chaiele" and dubs him her Tateh as he feels a need to protect the vulnerable orphan. When he gets into a fight with German tourists singing the SS anthem he takes it as an affront to his girlfriend but his cousin Daniele intercedes. Meanwhile he increasingly gets more and more frustrated as his demands about the war remain unanswered except by the stoic fisherman.

This is a powerful look at the psychic aftermath of the Nazi reign of terror on Europe. The Italians feel ashamed for what happened but would prefer Caia as a surviving reminder of Never Forget atrocities to leave, and the family of the protagonist who narrates the drama prefers he stop asking questions on events they want buried and forgotten. While the Americans debate the merits of the three New York centerfielders, Europe struggles to deal with turning blind during the war and wanting to remain myopic afterward re the Holocaust.

Harriet Klausner

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