Reunion by Fred Uhlman
What a gem of a book. More of a novella than a full length novel this was a delightful surprise. I’m struggling to chose books from the 70s… I was too young to have any recollection and the ones that do resonate I’ve already read.
Anyway, in my search for something short I stumbled upon this one and it’s left a real mark.
Hans Schwarz, son of a Jewish doctor, recalls how at age sixteen he had sought the friendship of Konradin Graf von Hohenfelds… it’s 1932 and Germany is changing, troubles are brewing and the impact on their friendship will be devastating. The narrator speaks from America 30 years after his family send him there for his safety.
We know history, we know with the power of hindsight what happened in the world in that time, we know what’s about to happen to the character and then makes the story so much more powerful. We know the why, and the sadness and the horrors and the heartaches and the unspeakable… they two boys don’t…so this story of friendship, and growing up, and the realisation that the adult world is complicated and unfair and increasingly wrong and scary takes on such a power. Becomes big, very very big.
‘ The reason , I swear by all the gods, has nothing to do with being ashamed – it is far more simpler and more unpleasant. My mother comes from a distinguished – once royal – Polish family, and she hates Jews’. ‘And if you want the whole truth: I’ve had to fight for every hour I’ve spent with you; and the worst of all ; I didn’t dare talk to you last night because I didn’t want to hurt you’ ‘Please accept me like I am, created by god and by circumstances which I can’t control. I’ve tried to hide it from you’. ‘ Am I responsible for my parents’?
It’s a perfect little novel because so much is said without being said. The language is measured and not a word is out of place and superfluous. You think it’s gentle and delicate… and then the next line hits you like a sucker punch to the stomach and leaves you king of breathless.
And the ending… well, the ending is just perfect too.
I dare you not to.