My Name, a Living Memory
Original title: Il mio nome a memoria
“Il mio nome a memoria is a real novel, a charming portrait, even in the midst of hardhitting drama (…) It transmits strong emotion, together with a strange joy. Benjamin getting lost in San Francisco, funny little George, Henriette with her curly hair, and Ivan, the foreigner who spends the night in a basement, terrified of being caught by the Nazis. There is a musical joy in such different lives whose fate will converge with the Holocaust” – Enzo Siciliano
“Il mio nome a memoria is a truly wonderful story. A novel from the same furrow as many narratives in the Jewish tradition, where the author inserts himself with just the right rhythm and story-telling that tends towards the real even when it includes elements of verisimilitude and fiction. (…) The reader moves between the group of characters who reward us with a whole world of psychologies: losers and idealists, practical and amorphous, dynamic or prone to the idea of a destiny already mapped out. Always vivid characters. An enjoyable read with intense moments, this book is often moving and gives food for thought” – Ermanno Paccagnini
“This moving book begins with the sudden loss of the father, not by accident, and with the desperate sense of never having known him. It is written to prepare us for the unbearable heaviness of this pain” – Massimo Onofri
‘Van Straaten’, meaning ‘the streets’ in Dutch, is the name that Hartog, a Jew from Rotterdam, chooses for his family in 1811, following a Napoleonic edict allowing Jews to hold citizenship on the condition that they assume a new surname. No name could be more prophetic, for his descendants will be forced to walk countless streets over the years. From the canals of Holland, they sail away to sea, making land in San Francisco and Ukraine, the Far East and the Côte d’Azur, New York and Russia, until they come to Livorno on the Tuscan coast, and the peaceful hills of Chianti. Time will sail by along with them, crossing almost two whole centuries and following the Van Stra(a)tens through the twists and turns of History, from the gold rush to silent cinema, from anti-Trotskyite persecution to the resistance in Holland, to the unspeakable rift of the Holocaust.
More than a family saga, this is a world within a novel, an emotional Heimat with a cast of vivid, contradictory characters, common folk whose adventures border on the impossible. Six generations come to life in dialogue with the author, one of the last descendants of the Van Straten dynasty, sometimes letting his imagination run wild, when memories and research aren’t able to fill in the gaps in History.
- Full English translation available