Time Capsules

David Bellos, Mariette Job

25/02/2009 3:45 pm

Will there ever have been many people who, at the age of twenty-two, were aware that they could suddenly lose all their potential – I feel unembarrassed saying that I feel I have immense potential, since I think of it as a gift, not as something I own – that it could all be taken away from them, and not rise up in revolt? – Helene Berr

No memoirs or history books have the impact of first person accounts written in the thick of the action. None is more poignant than Helene Berr’s tragic Journal.

Her diary shows how a young, intelligent Parisian who loved reading, music and spending time with her friends, saw her life more and more restricted. She depicts with the greatest sensitivity people’s reactions to the infamous yellow star, the gradual disappearance of all her loved ones, the lucky ones fleeing Paris, the others arrested and sent to unknown destinations. As time passes, she becomes more and more aware of the unescapable conclusion and poignantly rebels against the unfairness of it all.

Her story was told by her niece, Mariette Job and by David Bellos who translated Helene’s diary, a major publishing sensation in France and now a finalist of the 2008 National Jewish Book Award in the category of Biography, Autobiography, and Memoir.

Mariette Job

Mariette Job grew up hearing about her aunt Helene. She read her diary very young and it is thanks to her unrelenting efforts that it was finally published in France just a few years ago.

David Bellos

David Bellos has taught at the universities of Oxford, Edinburgh, Southampton and Manchester, and is now Professor of French and Comparative Literature at Princeton University. He has written extensively on nineteenth-century French fiction, published biographies of Georges Perec, Jacques Tati and Romain Gary and has also translated many novels by Georges Perec and Ismail Kadare.

Stephen D King