Authors: Nir Baram
INTERNATIONAL PRAISE FOR
âThe novel is written with great talent, momentum and ingenuityâ¦It expands the borders of literature to reveal new landscapes.' Amos Oz
âQuite possibly, Dostoyevsky would write like this if he lived in Israel today.'
Frank furter Allgemeine Zeitung
is a masterful metaphysical novel written by a true artist.'
âOne of the most intriguing writers in Israeli literature today.'
âA bold and brilliant novel that walks the path of greatness to the edge of the literary abyss.' A. B. Yehoshua
âNir Baram is the new hope of Israeli literatureâ¦[
is] a novel of great force and precision.'
âA very impressive and bold novel, a journey to hell with no return.'
the young Israeli author Nir Baram writes about the terrors of living under the regimes of Stalin and Hitler. It is done so majestically that it reaches the same level as books by Varlam Shalamov and Vasily Grossman.'
âWritten with true heart and soulâ¦You hear not only the voice of the writer, but the voices of his memorable characters too.'
NIR BARAM was born into a political family in Jerusalem in 1976. His grandfather and father were both ministers in Israeli Labor Party governments. He has worked as a journalist and an editor, and as an advocate for equal rights for Palestinians. He began publishing fiction when he was twenty-two, and is the author of five novels, including
The Remaker of Dreams
. His novels have been translated into more than ten languages and received critical acclaim around the world. He has been shortlisted several times for the Sapir Prize and in 2010 received the Prime Minister's Award for Hebrew Literature. His most recent book is a work of reportage, which Text will publish in 2017.
JEFFREY GREEN is a writer and translator living in Israel. He has a doctorate in Comparative Literature from Harvard, and has also published, among other things, a novel in Hebrew, a book of poetry and a book about translation.
The Text Publishing Company Ltd
Swann House, 22 William Street, Melbourne, Victoria 3000, Australia
The Text Publishing Company (UK) Ltd
130 Wood Street, London EC2V 6DL, United Kingdom
Copyright Â© Nir Baram 2010
Translation copyright Â© Jeffrey Green 2016
The moral rights of the author have been asserted.
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright above, no part of this publication shall be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher of this book.
First published as
in Israel by Am Oved
Published by The Text Publishing Company 2016
Design by W. H. Chong
Typeset by J&M Typesetting
National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication entry
Creator: Baram, Nir, author.
Title: Good people / by Nir Baram ; translated from the Hebrew by Jeffrey Green.
9781911231004 (UK paperback)
Subjects: World War, 1939-1945âFiction.
Green, Jeffrey, translator.
Dewey Number: 892.437
BERLIN / WARSAW / LUBLIN
, market researcher at the Milton Company
, Thomas's mother
, Thomas's father
, housekeeper and companion of Marlene
, director and then president of the European department of the Milton Company
, Fiske's successor as director
, assistant director of the research department at the Milton Company
, Thomas's schoolfriend and member of the SS
, Thomas's psychoanalyst
, Thomas's neighbour and subsequent housekeeper
, a partner in Bamberburg Bank
, senior adviser to Dr Karl Schnurre in the German Foreign Office
, bureaucrat in the Ministry of Economics
, German intelligence officer
, officer in the
, âGÃ¶ring's man in Poland'
SturmbannfÃ¼hrer Wolfgang Stalker
, SS officer working under Kresling in the
SturmbannfÃ¼hrer August Frenzel
, commander of the
, the program for the voluntary deportation of Jews from Lublin
LENINGRAD / BREST
Alexandra (Sasha) Andreyevna Weissberg
, literary editor of confessions for the NKVD
Andrei Pavlovich Weissberg
, Sasha's father, physicist
, Sasha's mother
Vladimir (Vlada) and Nikolai (Kolya) Weissberg
, Sasha's younger twin brothers
Emma Feodorovna Rykova
, literary critic
Nadyezhda (Nadya) Petrovna
, poet arrested by the NKVD
Osip Borisovich Levayev
Vladimir Vladimirovich Morozovsky
, mechanic and poetry lover
Maxim Adamovich Podolsky
, Sasha's husband and coworker in the NKVD
Stepan (Styopa) Kristoforovich Merkalov
, head of Sasha's department
, coworker of Sasha and Styopa
Nikita Mikhailovich Kropotkin
, Sasha's superior in Brest
People meet people. That's how the story goes. There's no need to be alone, not until you take your last breath. You see a world bursting with people, and are fooled into believing that your days of solitude are over. How hard can it be? Someone approaches someone else, they were both moved by
The Twilight of the Gods
, and by Gerhart Hauptmann's new play, both invested in Thompson Broken-Heart Solutions (âThe heart is the curse of the twentieth century'), and they're allies already. It's a fiction useful to the state, to society, to the market. Thanks to it, lonely people buy clothes, shares, cars, and spruce themselves up for dancing.
Through the parlour window Thomas Heiselberg could see that she was swaddled in the same fur coat she'd worn the last time she left the house. She hadn't gone by choice. After all, the outside world offered her nothing. But his family could no longer afford to employ her. They had let her go and given her a white fur coat that had now turned grey. Parting is a chance to be reborn: something good might
happen, another job might turn up, the pall of loneliness might be torn open.
She approached with small stepsâshe had put on weight, Frau Steinâsteps that seemed to say, âDon't look. There's nothing to see here.' And so you have it, the cunning of history: recent events in Berlin had given Jews like her good reason to hide in the shadows.
He watched her flat face, reddened by the cold air, her delicate neck whose grace was cruelly contradicted by her short body, like a seed of beauty that, in different circumstances, might have blossomed. She was totally alone, that was clear. He had no doubt that, aside from routine exchanges, she had scarcely spoken with anyone in the years since she had left.
A car stopped next to her. Two men sat in the front seat. She didn't look at them, but her every movement indicated her awareness of their presence. She brushed a whitish curl from her forehead and kept walking. Now a stone wall hid her from his view. Thomas watched until the car disappeared in traffic. A moment later, Frau Stein emerged again and, he thought, saw his face in the window.
How his mother had mourned when she left. Frau Stein was one of the family, she had filled the gapsâthe sister his mother never had, for exampleâuntil they came to terms with the fact that his mother had no sister, and fired her. In the final analysis, when his mother's annuity dwindled under the blows of inflation, and their lives were in danger, blood was blood.
A knock on the door.
âHello, Frau Stein,' Thomas said.
She nodded with her impatient gaze, pushed him aside. Their eyes met: the years hadn't diminished the hostility between them.
He took some pleasure in her disgrace, which was all over the newspapers, in the law books and on signs in the street. Close up, he could even spot its traces, a tortured urgency in her face. Hannah Stein's soul, just like her stooped body, was waiting for the next blow. Familiar with the house, and all its twists and turns, she hurried down the dark corridor and was swallowed up by her mistress's bedroom.
Thomas didn't move, then he set out after her. She was sure to be plotting something.
By the time he caught up with her, she had managed to hang her coat in the closet and seat herself at his mother's bedside. His mother's eyes expressed no surprise when the woman whom she hadn't seen for more than eight years leaned across and asked whether she needed anything. His mother said no. Frau Stein asked whether she was being well taken care of, and his mother whispered, âYes', which was in fact âNo'. Frau Stein took her hand and murmured her name over and over: âMarlene, Marlene.'