Sunday, February 09, 2014

First Saturday

Saturday morning. First thing I did: got up and finished The Invisible Bridge, by Julie Orringer. I might be weeping for days.

This story is unusually moving and will stick with me for quite awhile. World War II is the backdrop of many novels, and this one follows the lives of Andras Levi and his brothers. Their lives start in Hungary, where they develop their personalities, dreams, and goals. The author draws their young lives in detail, and so we know how they viewed their world before the war--the things they worried about, what they did with their friends, and their romances. Andras was focused on getting a degree in architecture in Paris and struggling with his finances. He'd also fallen in love, and was looking forward to a life with Klara and career in creating buildings. Andras was young, talented, and had a future. This was 1937.

Gradually, the political climate becomes scary, and Andras's carefully constructed life in Paris begins to fall apart. First, his scholarship is cancelled because he is Jewish, but he finds work and survives this. However, a couple years later, he finds that his visa is suddenly no good--he is told that he needs to return to Budapest to renew it. However, upon arrival in Budapest, Andras learns that this is not possible. His dream of finishing school in Paris is over.

This is crushing, but as the story proceeds, things get gradually worse for all of them. Andras and his brothers are called up to serve in the Munkaszolgálat, or Hungarian work service, which meant hard, forced labor. They were separated from their new wives and families, called up at different times and sent to different places. After a period of time, the men were sent home and told that their service was over, but would later be called up again. Each time, the separation from their families is heartbreaking, and each time, it gets more dangerous, their chances of survival getting slimmer.

Julie Orringer's characters are real people. Andras's brothers, parents, wife, friends--all of them are characters the reader is compelled to care about. Orringer has created some unforgettable scenes in this remarkable novel.

It would seem that being reminded of such dark times and events, and realizing that I have never had to live through anything like that, would have a cheering effect on me. Look, I'm so lucky! My least enjoyable times have had nothing to do with starvation, torture, or watching my loved ones being murdered. And yet, it happened--and is happening--to so many people, as I sit here feeling sorry.

And uncertainty. During war, not knowing is a great mental foe. Do most of us, right now, live with uncertainty? To some extent, but the uncertainty in my life is negligible. Sure, accidents happen every day, but there is no reason to think that I will suddenly not have any right to move around, hold a job, or own a home. The government is not going to seize all that I own and march me down the road to live somewhere else. I expect to grow old in this house, should I choose to do so.  I take our plans for granted, and just hope for good health.

Enough, already, sorry about that.  Time to cheer up, enjoy today.  There are reasons to be optimistic about the world today, people to celebrate.

...and now I need to go read something on the light side!


Logophile said...

You know, it's true, we have so many reasons for optimism but sometimes they really need to be pointedly focused on or the despair-inducing facets of life seem to hog all the attention.

That sounds like an incredibly moving book and i think you are right, something on the lighter side would probably be next for me too.

Anonymous said...

there are a shit load of people in this world that don't know how good they have it - some of the things we just take for granted are so out of reach for millions of people.

Jocelyn said...

I love book recommendations written by someone who is completely absorbed and changed by them. YES!

Now I'm trying to think of the last time I cried and cried when reading a book. Hmmm.

TLP said...

Good review as always.

We do live good lives. Easy lives.