& occasionally about other things, too...

Sunday, May 03, 2009

We are on our own

Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee...John Donne, Meditation XVII.

The horrors of holocaust have been described in vivid and excruciating details from all possible angles in all possible media. There are millions of stories.  The murder of each of the six million in concentration camps affected their families, relatives and friends. 

There will be millions stories more.

I read Miriam Katin’s memoir We are on our own Sunday afternoon at the Amesbury park where Che was furiously cycling; some neighbourhood boys were playing under-arm cricket; and aging Jamaican men were playing regular cricket with a tennis ball; and oh-by-the-way, I had a green tea flavoured ice cream at Baskin Robbins (wonder why they didn't have this flavour back in India?). 

The ice cream was treat to myself for getting my second byline in the Canadian media.

Spring is turning out to be rather relaxing...

Any way, back to the book...it’s a small, very meaningful book on a gigantic canvas.

It's in the graphic novel format and Katin, who has considerable experience as a graphic designer in New York and Israel, has a minimalist, impressionistic style.

In addition, she sketches most of the memoir in two tones when she is describing her mother’s harrowing escape from Budapest, Hungary.

The memoir is about the escape. Katin is young girl. Far too young to understand the tragedy that has befallen her family or comprehend the enormity of the genocide perpetrated by the Nazis on the Jews.  

For the Jews in east Europe, the Nazi defeat was not a complete cessation of torture because Soviet apparatchiks replaced the Nazis – and while they weren’t necessarily all evil, they harboured no dissent.

When they themselves couldn’t control dissent, the Soviets had no qualms riding roughshod and sending in tanks to extinguish any stirrings of liberty. Many Hungarians had to flee to Canada when the Soviet army crushed the Hungarian rebellion in 1956

Katin’s concluding remarks reveal the mature artist and the human being that she really is. She says, “Early in life I absorbed my father’s atheism at home and the secular education in school. My father, however, never denied being a Jew and held pride in ethical and the literary nature of our background. I was always comfortable with this. Living in Hungary and in very secular Israel was no problem. In New York, however, I had to allow for a more conservative approach to Jewish lifestyle. You had to belong and show it. I agreed reluctantly but had great trouble with it.”

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