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221 pages, Kindle Edition
First published January 1, 2014
As a child I thought a family tree was something like a Christmas tree, a tree with decorations from old boxes - some baubles break, fragile as they are, some angels are ugly and sturdy and remain intact through every move.
History begins when there are no more people to ask … I had no one left to question, no one who could still recall those times. All I had were fragments of memory, note of dubious value, and documents in distant archives …. I was at the mercy of history
I had thought that telling the story of the few people who happened to be my relatives was all that was needed to conjure up the entire twentieth century ………. My family had just about everything I had arrogantly thought
I was travelling to Poland with the same destination and the same train- assuming the urge to search for what has vanished can be defined as a destination at all
if you google yourself, at some point your namesakes vanish, and what remains is only you …. How is democracy supposed to work if you get only what you have searched for and if you ware what you search, and you never feel alone or you always do since you never get the chance to meet the others, who are not like you, and that’s how it is with the search, you come across like minded people. God googles our paths, so that we stay put in our grooves
I sifted through … old papers … on the internet. The search command highlighted the word deaf in yellow, as though Google knew yellow was the colour of Jewsihness
In an earlier time …. having a large family was a curse, because relatives could be members of the White Army, saboteurs, noblemen, kulaks, overeducated “enemies of the people” living abroad, their children, and other dubious characters and everyone was under suspicion, so families suffered a convenient loss of memory, often in order to save themselves, even though it rarely helped, and on special occasion, any relatives who might fit these categories were generally forgotten, often hidden from their children, and families dwindled: whole branches of families were pared down
Our family’s history is predicated on a questionable translation without a source text, and I am now telling the story of this family in German without there ever having been a Russian original
The past betrayed my expectations, slipping out of my grasp and committing one faux pas after another …… [these] confirmed my fear that I had no power over the past, it lives as it pleases, and just does not manage to die
As I was speaking so enthusiastically and offhandedly and saying things I would certainly not define as a lie, my imagination took wing, and I drifted further and further without the slightest fear of going over the cliff
Sometimes I had the feeling that in picking my way through the rubble of history, I was gradually losing the sense not only of my search, but of my entire life. I wanted to bring far too many of the dead back to life and had not thought through a strategy to do so. I read random books; I travelled through random cities and in the process made pointless, even false movements. But maybe – and this is only a bold assumption on my part – I stirred up the ghosts of the past with all this moving around, touching a tender membrane somewhere in the lowest layer of heaven, one that a human being might well reach.