Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels
Fugitive Pieces is a novel about a young boy- Jakob Beer- who hides in a cupboard while his family is massacred by the Nazis. He roams the forest and scavenges for food in some vaguely described manner, until he is discovered and saved by a Greek named Athos, which all happens in the first 13 pages. From that point on, the book is basically about Jakob’s sorrow, his difficulty in readjusting to a new life. Eventually Athos dies and Jakob travels back to his home town and writes poetry. Then, abruptly, Jakob’s story ends. Suddenly halfway through the book, a new person named Ben is the primary character. Ben has his own obscure problems; and after informing the reader that Jakob is dead (with an, “Oh, by the way, Jakob died.”), Ben finds solace and healing in reading Jakob’s poetry.
I bought this book to add to my collection of Holocaust Survivor stories; the most treasured books in my library. I am sorry to say, this book did not live up to the accolades so richly bestowed upon it. In fact, I could not even finish it. Like some modern art; it was abrupt, bold, and abstract. The characters had no substance or depth. The plot was sparse and fragmented. How could it have won so many awards? Could it possibly have brought tears to anyone’s eyes? I can only imagine that Anne Michaels’ flowery prose must have mesmerized a select audience. Her non-stop litany of metaphors camouflaged the weak plot. Open to most any page and you will find phases like:
– His arteries silted up like an old river. The heart is a fistful of earth. The heart is a lake.
– One can look deeply into meaning or one can invent it.
– Athos’ backward glance gave me a backward hope.
– Like a musical score, when you read a weather map you are reading time.
– Irony is scissors, a divining rod, always pointing in two directions.
– There’s a precise moment when we reject contradiction. This moment is the lie we will live by.
All pretty words…..but no genuine feeling. If you were to eliminate all the metaphors it would be an insignificant short story. Anne Michaels should stick to poetry.
If you want to read some truly meaningful Holocaust survivor stories try these:
The Alchemy of Survival by: Mack Rogers
Babi Yar by: A. Anatoli
Treblinka by: Jean-Francois Steiner
For Those I Loved by: Martin Gray
The Survivor by: Jack Eisner
Auschwitz by Dr. Miklos Nyiszli
Schindler’s List by: Thomas Keneally
Or any of Elie Wiesel’s great books
Rated: 1.5 Stars
All contents © 2009 Lois Weisberg. All rights reserved