Perla

Perla

Perla

Perla

Synopsis

Perla is the story of a woman who lived through the horrors of the Holocaust and would ultimately die unable to extricate herself from its corrosive memory. It is told from the point of view of her son, who, not long after losing her, learns that he is about to become a father. These two events become the impetus for reconstructing Perla’s past and for understanding gestation, as he’s equally in the dark about what happened in his mother’s life and what is taking place in his wife’s womb. Strangely, at this time he finds himself drawn to the poets Novalis, Hölderlin, and Schlegel, and the painter Caspar David Friedrich—founders of German romanticism who strove to capture the spiritual essence of the world. With and through them, he seeks peace and grapples with the question: How could Germany produce both the purest poetry and the most complete barbarity?

Winner of France’s Goncourt Prize for a first novel, Frédéric Brun’s semiautobiographical novel considers the seemingly irreconcilable multiplicities of life—past and present, personal and collective, self and other, life and death.

Excerpt

Perla, my mother, on a beautiful day in 1944, attempted to flee a horde of ss who were chasing her. Once arrested, she found herself crammed into a cattle car alongside other women, men, and children. Upon arrival, she was placed in front of that man named Mengele. in an instant, this elegant doctor determined the destiny of thousands of people. He needed only to extend his hand in one direction. To the right, the crematorium; to the left, the right to live, to hope.

Mengele looked at her briefly. After a quick physical exam, the fate of a prisoner was sealed. Perla suffered from nothing, but a small pimple had burst forth on her face. He hesitated, carelessly extended his hand to the right. She was beautiful. He changed his mind. There is so much indulgence for beauty. He pointed his finger toward the left.

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