cover image Wide Awake

Wide Awake

Robert Bober, trans. from the French by Carol Volk. New Press (Perseus, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-59558-701-5

In this meditative novel set in the early ’60s, French film director Bober looks at the Holocaust’s legacy from the perspective of the generation that immediately followed. Bernard Appelbaum, 21 years old and newly entranced by his native Paris seen through the lens of filmmaker François Truffaut, lands a role as an extra in Truffaut’s latest, Jules et Jim (a story of simple coincidences shaping one’s life). Upon seeing the film, Bernard’s mother, Hannah, opens up about her own life’s coincidences, especially how her marriage to Bernard’s father, Yankel, resulted from their mutual friend Liezer’s absence one evening, giving Yankel the chance to confess his love. After Yankel died in the camps when Bernard was only two, Hannah reconnected with Liezer, whom she married and with whom she had Bernard’s half-brother, Alex. However, when Liezer dies in a plane crash, both boys are left fatherless and brimming with questions about their shared heritage. Though Bober writes lyrically of Paris and its young people struggling with the legacy of WWII, the plot meanders toward the end as Bober depicts obscure corners of the city, Bernard’s young loves, and the choices that lead him to face his family’s past. (Jan.)