The Orphanage

Hubert Fichte, Author, Martin Chalmers, Translator Serpent's Tail $10.95 (176p) ISBN 978-1-85242-161-8
Detlev's father is dead, and his mother is having a difficult time keeping an apartment in Germany in 1942--no one wants a single mother and child as tenants. So Detlev is placed in a Catholic orphanage, where he lives during the week and thinks longingly of Sunday, which he spends with his mother. The book begins on Detlev's last day at the orphanage, the novel unfolding as a series of flashbacks that pk mingle in a disorienting way, a method Fichte employs to represent the half-formed impressions of a child's mind. A Protestant, Detlev is an outsider among the orphans, who bully him and accuse him of being a Jew. The boy tries hard to fit in, adopting the religion of his companions and proclaiming his desire to become a priest. The most arresting moments in the novel are those focusing on Detlev's alienation and loneliness. Fichte does a remarkable job depicting the interior life of a young boy--alternating quotidian details with a child's surrealistic fantasies--and gives a touching portrait of a mind shaped and strengthened by the cruelties of childhood and the hardship of war. The renowned German novelist died in 1986; this was his first novel. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 07/01/1990
Release date: 07/01/1990
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