This is the saga of one family’s exile and survival told from the unique perspective of those Europeans who fled to South America during the Second World War. The characters that make up this story are no ordinary family. The main protagonist is Hugo Simon (the author’s great-grandfather) who was a leading banker, art collector and cultural activist in Weimar Germany. Among his friends and direct associates were Albert Einstein, Thomas Mann, Stefan Zweig, as well as many other historical figures that appear as characters in the book. Faced with imminent arrest as a known socialist and a Jew, Hugo Simon fled Berlin for Paris in March 1933. He remained there until 1941, taking an active part in the anti-Nazi resistance. After the defeat of France, he and his family were finally forced to flee to Brazil, under assumed names, breaking completely with their past. They remained there for the rest of their lives, rebuilding their existence and identities in a strange land. None of them ever set foot in Europe again. The story is set during the years 1930 to 1945 and follows the destinies of five main characters: Hugo Simon, his wife Gertrud, their daughters Ursula and Annette, and their son-in-law Wolf Demeter.
Tracking their flight from Berlin and their lives in France and Brazil, the narrative unfolds chronologically in a series of 24 episodes of varying length, each viewed from the vantage point of one of these characters. Interspersed among these third-person narratives, three brief first-person interludes piece together how the story came down to the author. The composite work is a fictional staging of historical events, revealing the lives and thoughts of these characters against the backdrop of a world forever changed. Besides exploring the universal themes of exile and loss, THE REMNANT contributes a new and surprising twist to the literature on the Second World War by focusing on the untold story of a forgotten historical figure and his experience in an extraordinary place and time.
Selected to be presented to movie producers by the program Books at Berlinale/2017.
Publication/Status: simultaneous published by Companhia das Letras (Brazil) and Fisher (Germany) in October 2016. By Nieuw Amsterdam (Holland) in April 2017. [459 pages]
“A powerful portrait of a city.”
– Frankfurter Allgemeine
Sixteen stories – each focusing on a female character and a neighborhood of Rio – are woven together to form a tapestry of the life of a great city, observed from the multiple viewpoints of its women inhabitants. The characters range from Maria, 93, forced to cope with yet another armed robber in her home, to Jade, 6 years old, left in the care of her mother’s latest boyfriend for the day. Their neighborhoods cover the gamut of the city’s social extremes – from the luxury condominiums of Ipanema and Barra da Tijuca to the favelas of Rio’s peripheries. Each story captures a turning point or moment of truth in their lives: Renata, 34, a dentist’s receptionist who decides to take revenge for her husband’s infidelities; Helena, 16, who must choose between the thrill of a Romeo-and-Juliet style romance with a drug dealer and the upper-middle-class existence into which she was born; Jamilly, 25, struggling to break free of her life as a prostitute; Mariellen, 24, waxing philosophical on the difficulties of being young and gay and poor.
Threading these strands, a shadowy masculine character, the DJ-cum-Casanova, Rafael, weaves in and out of their lives, often wreaking havoc as he goes along.
Publication/Status: by Record (Brazil) in 2007, Fischer (Germany) and Siruela (Spain) in 2013.