In the final passage of Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath
, a man narrowly escapes starvation by feeding at the breast of a woman whose infant child has died. It is a punishingly beautiful combination of despair and hope with few peers in contemporary fiction. Brodeck
, the prescient new novel by French author Phillipe Claudel, culminates in an equally moving but far darker scene that will haunt readers even as the book enchants them.
The story is set in a small mountain village where Brodeck lives with his wife, a young daughter and an old gypsy who rescued Brodeck as a child from the charred shtetl
we see only in his hazy memories. The two make a ramshackle caravan, we presume through the mountains of the east, until they arrive in a remote hamlet somewhere in western Germany or perhaps eastern France. It is a place that centuries of cultural and...
Beyond the Book
While Philppe Claudel makes no explicit references to any historical event, a number of them clearly influenced his novel. A particularly poignant example comes when Brodeck is forced to flee the city where he attends university because nationalist thugs respond to a popular protest by smashing store fronts and savagely beating anyone who looks like they don't belong. There is an obvious parallel to the infamous events of Kristallnacht, a touchstone in the progression toward the Nazi murder of the Jews.
When Hitler occupied the chancellorship of Germany in 1933, he did so as head of a National Socialist party that shared anti-communist and...