Thursday, 17 April 2014

Seth, Vikram "Two Lives"

Seth, Vikram "Two Lives" - 2005

I had already read two novels by Vikram Seth before, "A Suitable Boy" and "An Equal Music", both of which are completely different but really good.

In this work, the author describes not just the life of his great-uncle and his Jewish wife, he describes his own life, he describes the life and death of ordinary people during the holocaust as well as the terrible fate of the Jews. But he also describes life in India pre- and post independence. Quite an undertaking.

Vikram Seth makes it extremely easy to follow the paths of Shanti and Henny, their families and friends through a whole century and several continents. He doesn't leave out any detail, relying on personal experience as well as interviews and old letters.

We get to know the three characters, yes we have to include the author, too, pretty well. Vikram Seth leaves no stone unturned, doesn't leave out a single character or incident that might seem too trivial at the moment but is important later on. We get a good insight into life before and during World War II both in Germany and in England, about the war itself and about the concentration camps. Also, and I found that even more interesting as we don't often get to read about it, life after the war in both England and Germany.

What can I say, a fantastic book. If the author ever writes another biography, I should gladly read it. Actually, I am going to put all his books on my wishlist.

From the back cover: "Two Lives is the story of a century and of a love affair across a racial divide. It tells of the extraordinary lives of Vikram Seth's great-uncle Shanti, brought up in India and sent to Berlin in the 1930s to study, and of his great-aunt Henny, whose German-Jewish family took Shanti in as a lodger. What follows is an astonishing tapestry of India, the Third Reich and the Second World War, Auschwitz and the Holocaust, Israel and Palestine, Post-war Germany and modern Britian."

A quote from the book which the author found at the Holocaust Memorial Arch in the Memorial garden in Hendon Park, London:
"Lezikaron. The meaning refers tot he importance of looking forward as well as remembering the past."

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