Michael Frank's e book of conversations with Stella Levi | EUROtoday

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Rhodos has an eventful historical past, the Greek island was conquered repeatedly: the Romans and others had been adopted by centuries of Ottoman rule earlier than the Italians took over the island in 1912. It was not till 1943 that the Germans forcibly changed them. The occupation by Nazi troops solely lasted two years, but it surely was sufficient to nearly fully wipe out the small Jewish neighborhood (which can have been resident right here with interruptions since pre-Biblical occasions). Nothing remained of the colourful world of “Juderia”, because the residential space was known as, which shaped its very personal cosmos with its customs and tales, distinctive smells and sounds. Until nicely into the third decade of the 20th century, life right here was characterised by Jewish rites, but additionally unusual cures: “For symptoms associated with the evil eye (poor eyes in Judeo-Spanish) are associated, […] one should wear a blue stone or a blue pearl. Or throw a handful of salt into the toilet when you urinate.”

Stella Levi was born into this world in 1923, one of many few who can nonetheless inform about it at this time. On 100 Saturdays she advised the author and publicist Michael Frank (“The Mighty Franks”) about her recollections: in regards to the many traditions and rituals that offered safety, but additionally in regards to the narrowness of the neighborhood from which the younger Stella needed to interrupt out. Levi talks about modernity, which started to powerfully fire up the river of life that had flowed quietly within the Juderia for thus lengthy. For many youthful individuals, the connection to the Jewish ceremony grew to become more and more weaker, however on the similar time new alternatives opened up. Stella's mom, for instance, didn't thoughts that her daughter met three males usually and clearly turned their heads.

Of course, Stella Michael Frank additionally reviews on the good disaster that modified every thing ceaselessly, the deportation that ended for the “Rhodeslis,” as they known as themselves, in Auschwitz on August 16, 1944. Even at this time, Stella Levi is amazed on the lethal absurdity of this deportation: “Why did they come all this way because of such a small community, and then at the last minute, two months before Greece was liberated, to do something? Essentially to deport old people. What was the point of rounding up over 1,700 people and sending them on a journey that lasted a month and cost who knows how much?”

The capacity to psychologically separate

She has a guess: “Sometimes I think it is […] perhaps it was no longer about hatred of the Jews. The Germans had built a machine and continued to use it, even though they knew that the war was over.” Stella and her sister Renée survived this murder machine, with whom she was able to stay together throughout the suffering, only with luck, but also with the help of the ability to separate psychologically: “I separated from Stella, who was in Auschwitz. It seemed as if everything that was happening to her was happening to another Stella, not the Stella I was, not the Stella from Rhodes, the Stella I knew.”

The cover of Michael Frank's


The cowl of Michael Frank's “One Hundred Saturdays”
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Image: Publisher

A demise march from Birkenau was adopted by additional camp experiences earlier than the sisters had been liberated. They determined to not return to Rhodes – what or who might they’ve discovered there? – however to go to America, the place a part of her household had been capable of to migrate earlier than the disaster. Stella began lots there and broke it off once more, changing into the mom of a son, whom she not often noticed after separating from her husband: “I think it was best for him that way.” It was solely later that she felt known as to be a recent witness and needed to be persuaded by Michael Frank to do the joint e book challenge.

“One Hundred Saturdays”, the literary document of their many conversations, is after all not solely a narrative about Stella Levi's life and a “lost world”, because the subtitle says, additionally it is a e book in regards to the energy of storytelling itself: “Stella is a scary and at the same time clever Scheherazade. She knows how to let me down, week after week, moment after moment, sentence after sentence. […] Most of the time it's more interesting to wait and see what she wants to tell me – in her own way.” This style of narration not only has a tremendous impact on the listener (and reader), Stella actually has something of the survival artist from “A Thousand and One Nights” : “Well, our conversations, somehow they kept me alive,” she tells her chronicler on the finish.

Michael Frank: “One Hundred Saturdays”. Stella Levi and the seek for a misplaced world. Translated from English by Brigitte Jakobeit. Rowohlt Berlin Verlag, Berlin 2023. 335 pages, hardcover, €24.

https://www.faz.net/aktuell/feuilleton/buecher/rezensionen/belletristik/rezension-michael-franks-gespraechsbuch-mit-stella-levi-19549435.html