New Europe Books. 192 pages. Trade paperback $14.99.
Stylistic virtuosity, penetrating emotional power, and a post-apocalyptic vision combine to make this highly individualist effort a brilliant literary achievement. Demanding and rewarding, Ain-Krupa’s book is being marketed as a novel, and it certainly has a strong narrative dimension, though it might be better described as a sequence of prose-poems.
The apocalypse, in this case, is the destruction of European Jewry. What’s left to return to in 1945? Why return? What do survivors do with their survival? What are the sources of identity and relationship in a world of death? These are the questions the author explores, questions more felt than articulated.
A Polish Jew named Wolf returns to a shattered homeland from Brooklyn, where he had managed to live during the Holocaust years. He travels by rail with a young man named Wiktor, who seems a ghostly presence. and with a dog he picks up along the way. Wolf gets to his home town, the neighborhood, the cemetery, but what is left seems unreal. There is nothing to attach himself to. Death is everywhere. He belongs in Brooklyn, where it is easier to live with his memories.
We learn of a school that taught mostly Jewish girls, a school that went up in flames, as did the forty-one girls—all named Sarah. We sense their ghosts, and we imagine the ghosts of the children they did not grow up to birth. We ponder on all of those Sarahs, of all the meanings we can connect to the matriarch’s name.
To enjoy the full review, as it appears on the Jewish Book Council site, click here: The Upright Heart: A Novel by Julia Ain-Krupa | Jewish Book Council Review