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THE GHETTO WITHIN by Santiago Amigorena
Translated by Frank Wynne
Santiago Amigorena’s grandfather, Vincente, never experienced the Shoah. Or at least not in the conventional sense. Having left Poland for Argentina in 1928, he inadvertently escaped the horrors to come. Vincente started a furniture business and married an Argentinian woman. Life was good. Each month he’d write to his mother in Warsaw, and she would write back. By the mid-30s, the letters took on a darker tone. Nazism was on the rise. After Poland was invaded, Vincente’s family was interred in the Warsaw Ghetto. The letters, increasingly sporadic, spoke of disease and starvation. Then rumours of death camps and mass murder began to circulate. And the letters stopped.
Amigorena imagines his grandfather’s despair as he comes to understand not only the fate of his family, but his complete impotence in the face of it. It is an insightful and compassionate, if horrifying, character study of survivors’ guilt played out in real time. It is also an act of love and courage from a grandson willing to stare cataclysmic loss in the face and, from it, draw beauty and humanity. Vincente fell to pieces. His wife, Rosita, helped put him back together. Here, Amigorena has painted their timeless portrait.
The Ghetto Within by Santiago Amigorena (Tr. by Frank Wynne)
Harper Collins, 2022