cover image Angel of Oblivion

Angel of Oblivion

Maja Hanerlap, trans. from the German by Tess Lewis. Archipelago (PRH, dist.), $18 trade paper (250p) ISBN 978-0-914671-46-6

In her debut novel, Haderlap plunges readers into a morass of European history. The book is an attempt to rescue the memories of her elders among the Slovenes living in southern Austria during the aftermath of the Second World War from the “angel of oblivion.” The author recounts her childhood in a landscape that bears silent witness to her people’s betrayal and butchery by Austrian Nazis. The author’s family is reticent and damaged, yet as she grows up, she gathers their recollections. Her grandfather and brother were partisans, fighting against the Nazis, and for this the grandmother was taken to Ravensbrück. Her son, the author’s father, was tortured as a child for information, suspended by a policeman from a tree. “He thought I was foliage,” the author’s father says on his deathbed. As the narrator matures, she is able to discern the reasons her father is violent and drinks himself into oblivion, why her mother argues with her grandmother about the girl’s exposure to the past, and why her grandmother grows cold as she is dying. Parts of these people have been stolen— “the force of their memories disconcerts them”—so they must preserve the rest. (Aug.)