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On the Table Read Magazine, “the best book magazine in the UK“, Returning From Silence by Michèle Sarde is a personal, first-person account of a mother’s unwavering determination to hide her Jewish identity from the Nazis.
Returning From Silence
Michèle Sarde’s book, Returning From Silence, is a personal, first-person account of a mother’s unwavering determination to protect her daughter’s life and hide her Jewish identity from the Nazis during World War II.
The personal history of Jenny, her daughter Michou, and their Judeo-Hispanic family from Salonica are seamlessly interwoven with contemporary themes of hidden identity, assimilation, and persecution, the women’s struggle for emancipation, and the German occupation of France. The story is told with a touch of dark humor and a lot of emotion.
During the Nazi occupation of France in 1944, Jenny’s family found themselves in the middle of the Vercors Maquis, a resistance spot. The daughter Jenny was protecting was just a little girl at the time. Jenny was driven to conceal her origins and impose that “silence” on her daughter because of their near-miracleous escape.
However, Michou is forced to confront her true identity late in the story, and in the process, she persuades her aging mother to recount her own story. This is similar to the original Marranos, Jews of Spain who converted 500 years ago but were unable to hide their faith for long.
Michèle, who was brought up Catholic, knew very little about her family’s past as a child. Returning From Silence, the first of her three volumes of memoir, was the result of her desire to reconstruct the history of her family. Even though Returning From Silence is technically a novel with editorial flourishes to bring characters to life and fill in gaps, it is thoroughly researched and filled with historical accuracy.
“My mother supplied the basic material for the story,” said Michèle Sarde. “She wrote an account and entrusted me with all the records she had kept during the war, including the photographs I used in the book. I didn’t start to write until after her death to avoid any possible discomfort to her.”
Michèle Sarde is a French writer and professor emerita at Georgetown University, where she tutored French literature, gender studies and intercultural studies. The crucial themes of her work, for which she has won several literary awards, are women’s causes, intercultural issues, the commerce between history and individual fates, and the interweaving of particular and literal memory. Her books have been translated into several languages and given rise to academic studies, in particular her new Histoire d’Eurydice pendant la remontée (Eurydice rising).
Michèle Sarde holds the Palmes académiques, the Order of trades and Letters and the Order of National Merit — decorations awarded by the French Government. She has written lives of Colette and Marguerite Yourcenar, and isco-editor of the ultimate’s correspondence, and a memoir of Jacques Rossi, a survivor of the Soviet Gulag.
As an essayist, Michèle Sarde is the author of two volumes on the history and sociology of women in France as well as multitudinous academic papers. As a novelist, her most recent work is a cycle of remembrance devoted to her families — from the Ottoman Empire to the Holocaust — aiming to bring back to this world the lost who have marked her life and left traces of themselves in her books.
Find more from Michèle Sarde now:
For more information, please visit https://www.michelesarde.com/.
Returning from Silence: Jenny’s Story
Publisher: Swan Isle Press
Available from Amazon.com and many other online booksellers
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