Magazine article The Spectator

Don't Mention the War

Magazine article The Spectator

Don't Mention the War

Article excerpt

Major/Minor by Alba Arikha Quartet, £15, pp. 217, ISBN 9780704372429

It wasn't easy being the daughter of the artist Avigdor Arikha. In this memoir, Alba Arikha mixes teenage fury with glimpses of her godfather Samuel Beckett and a fragmented account of her father's experiTeenage angst set against war crimes:

is that in good taste?

ences of the Holocaust. Avigdor Arikha and his wife, the poet Anne Atik, surrounded themselves with the intelligentsia of Paris and drove their daughter mad: 'I resent their purity and knowledge. Their values and morals. My father's anger. My mother's goodness.'

Avigdor Arikha was an irascible, dismissive and earnestly didactic father. Alba paid no attention when he tried to teach her about the Sumerians; she would not stay quiet when he discussed art and politics with his friends; when she began improvising on the piano, it was the wrong type of music.

The book is a rapid series of vignettes that move from Paris to Jerusalem to London and New York. Arikha writes in brief, sparse sentences that sometimes border on poetry: 'Her pain is an open window which has never been fully closed: she needs to grieve in order to feel alive, ' she writes of her grandmother, Pepi. Later on, we hear the details: Pepi's husband was beaten to death by German soldiers and soon afterwards she was separated from her children for 14 years.

When Arikha has lunch with her father in a cafe to ask him about the war, he struggles with the rock and roll on the juke box, while she struggles with embarrassment because a boy from school is at a nearby table. …

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