After successfully bringing Virginia Woolf's On Being Ill,Bryher's Visa for Avalon and Muriel Rukeyser's The Life of Poetry back into print, Paris Press, a small press in Northampton, Mass., is now looking to do the same for Czech-born author Zdena Berger, author of Tell Me Another Morning: An Autobiographical Novel,which describes her experiences as a teenage girl in German concentration camps during World War II. A Book-of-the-Month Club selection when it was first published in the U.S. by Harper & Brothers in 1961, Tell Me Another Morningdisappeared despite good reviews, possibly because another Holocaust memoir, Elie Wiesel's Night, was released at roughly the same time.
Ironically, Hill & Wang's reissue of Nightlast year in a new translation, which was an Oprah Book Club pick, could this time help Berger's own story to get a second look—as might the recent success of Irene Nemirovsky's Suite Française, the bestselling novel about life in occupied France. Not that chance is something Paris Press founder and publisher Jan Freeman is relying on, since she regards Tell Me Another Morning(Apr.; dist. by Consortium) as "the biggest book the press will ever have the honor of publishing." That includes the Woolf and some of Freeman's own poetry collections, which are among the 16 books that Paris Press has published since its founding in 1995.
To focus on making Berger's book a success, Freeman has decided to forgo publishing any other titles in 2007 and is mounting a major promotional effort. Last month she sent out 600 galleys, the press's biggest galley mailing ever. Thanks to substantial grants, Freeman is in the midst of producing the press's first reader's and teacher's guides, which will be available online at publication date. The guides are part of the press's outreach program to the secondary school market and college course adoptions. The 10,000-copy first printing matches the initial run for the Woolf book, which came out in 2002, and had the company's largest first printing to date, with a return to press imminent.
Advance reaction to Berger's book, which has a new cover with a painting by artist Charlotte Solomon, who perished in Auschwitz, has been strong. Novelist Ernest J. Gaines, who first read the book over 40 years ago, says, "It's a classic. It reminds me of The Diary of Anne Frank,but with much broader perspective." PW is running a glowing review of the reissue, calling it a "heart-wrenching eyewitness account of the Holocaust" deserving of "a wide audience, particularly in high school and college curriculums."
One of the things that distinguishes Tell Me Another Morning is Berger's decision to tell the story from the viewpoint of a 14-year-old girl in Prague, who has no idea what is about to unfold. The book concentrates on the girl, Tania, and her two friends, who sustain her in the camps and give her the will to survive despite the loss of her family.
Berger, born in Prague, was 16 years old when imprisoned, and 20 when she was liberated from Bergen-Belsen. She began writing the book in English soon after she arrived in the U.S. in 1955. Berger chose fiction over memoir, she says, because it allowed her "to reach some poetic beauty beyond all of the suffering and to focus on the small, sharp, intimate details in the vast anonymity of the collective misery. Only in this form could I try to elevate the facts to give some glimmer of hope, which is what sustained us."
The 82-year-old author, who now lives in San Francisco, calls the republication of her book "a validation of what I tried to do." To promote Tell Me Another Morning, she will embark on a tour of the Bay Area, Philadelphia, Boston and western Massachusetts (where Paris Press is located) and New York during the month of April, Holocaust Remembrance month.