The House of Returned Echoes

The House of Returned Echoes

The House of Returned Echoes

The House of Returned Echoes

Synopsis

Arnost Lustig's fiction has always been to close to the facts for comfort. In "The House of Returned Echoes," he pays tribute to the life of his father, who died in Auschwitz in 1944. In Prague in the difficult time between the wars, a man fights to keep his family and his business alive despite anti-Semitism and economic hardship. Emil Ludvig has always relied on the simple rules of his family and the basic laws of civilization to counteract his misfortunes, and being a decent man himself, he refuses to believe that the Nazi threats will be carried out. Yet, he also becomes a victim of the camps, and his story resonates with both Lustig's personal experiences and the shared memories of the Holocaust.

Excerpt

The House of Returned Echoes is a book about my father, who died in the gas chambers of Auschwitz at the end of September 1944. When I went on a journey around the world in 1965, I took the manuscript with me. I wrote in hotel rooms while in Persia, India, and China; in Ceylon, Tokyo, and Hanoi; and, finally, in San Francisco and New York. Before departing from New York for San Juan, Puerto Rico, with the airline tickets for Madrid, Paris, and my return to Prague, I left my car, borrowed from an émigré friend, unattended for a moment. When I returned, the car was opened and the suitcase with my manuscript was gone.

A representative from Prague said that he suspected the American Secret Service; the American police said they suspected the Secret Police of the other side. No one has ever located the suitcase. I rewrote the book from an earlier draft. I had the feeling that, in a sense, one completes the writing of a book before he touches the paper. Everything came back to me—it is easier to return a lost book to paper than to return to earth the lost people one writes about. This, then, is the story surrounding The House of Returned Echoes. It is the story of a man for whom family was the reason for his creation, for which he struggled against fate. in his case, this fate was Germany, the Nazis, and the struggle for dignity. It is a story about the times he confronted—like a ship’s pilot setting out to sea in a coracle without oars.

It is also a story about a man who, like many others, believed until the end that the Nazis would not go through with their threats because he himself could never carry out such things on anyone—or admit that someone might be happy in the midst of others’ misfortunes. He relied on what is called civilization and its laws, instead of . . .

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