British Novel About Aging Lithuanian-Born Jew
Adam Thirlwell’s latest gets mixed reaction
The British author Adam Thirlwell, acclaimed a promising young novelist by Granta in 2003, has just published The Escape, and the reviews in the London papers are mixed. The story borrows from Philip Roth (though he thanks Saul Bellow in his acknowlegements): there’s lots of sex and the protagonist, Raphael Haffner, a London-raised Lithuanian Jew getting on in years, wrestles with who he is. Insistent that “his ‘people’ are English while his faith is Jewish,” notes the Guardian, “Haffner thinks of the Abrahamic god as ‘omnipotent yet constantly underachieving.’” He heads to an Alpine town to reclaim the chateau that had belonged to his deceased wife’s family before being seized first by the Nazis and then by the Communists. En route he takes up with a middle-aged hausfrau and a young Romanian yoga teacher. What links Haffner to the instructor, Thirlwell said in a recent interview, is “that they have suffered trauma through being in wars, but back in ordinary life, this becomes unspeakable. There are certain things you might never talk about that are central to your life.”
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