Pavel's Letters by Monika Maron
Teasing her family's past out of the fog of oblivion and lies, one of Germany's greatest writers asks about the secrets families keep, about the fortitude of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, and about what becomes of the individual mind when the powers that be turn against it. Born in a working-class suburb of wartime Berlin, Monika Maron grew up a daughter of the East German nomenklatura, despairing of the system her mother, Hella, helped create. Haunted by the ghosts of her Baptist grandparents, she questions her mother, whose selective memory throws up obstacles to Maron's understanding of her grandparents' horrifying denouement in Polish exile. Maron reconstructs their lives from fragments of memory and a forgotten box of letters. In telling her family's powerful and heroic story, she has written a memoir that has the force of a great novel and also stands both as an elaborate metaphor for the shame of the twentieth century and a life-affirming monument to her ancestors.