pain is supposed to be a friend to the artist, but some scars go so deep they can't be expressed. It took Holocaust survivors decades to apply the written word to their trauma. Now, finally, stories by the children of Holocaust survivors are surfacing. If The Speed Of Light is any indication, the new wave of fiction will be devastating.
Elizabeth Rosner's novel unfolds as a fugue in three voices. Science whiz Julian fixes old TVs. His sister Paula, who lives upstairs, is an emerging opera star. They both sense that they're second-generation refractions of their father's experiences in Auschwitz, even though he's said almost nothing about the camps.
When Paula leaves town, she asks Sola, her housekeeper, to stay in her apartment and look in on Julian, who can barely take a walk without wilting.
Sola has an awful story of her own, and their shared proximity to suffering brings Julian and Sola together. In the meantime, in Budapest, Paula finds out more about what really happened to her father. Such a discovery can either obliterate an artistic gift or take it in a new direction. Which way will Paula's go?
At root, Rosner's theme is that nothing changes unless the stories are told. That, especially as it applies to Holocaust memories in the post-Schindler age, is not exactly a new idea.
But this poetic and poignant novel possesses an awesome subtlety. Rosner never wallows in the terrible. There is only light here.