Blindness of the Heart by Julia Franck
A Novel

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Synopsis

Winner of the German Book Prize, The Blindness of the Heart is a dark marvel of a novel by one of Europe’s freshest young voices—a family story spanning two world wars and several generations in a German family. In the devastating opening scene, a woman named Helene stands with her seven-year-old son in a provincial German railway station in 1945, amid the chaos of civilians fleeing west. Having survived with him through the horror and deprivation of the war years, she abandons him on the station platform and never returns.

The story quickly circles back to Helene's childhood with her sister Martha in rural Germany, which came to an abrupt end with the outbreak of the First World War. Their father is sent to the eastern front, and their Jewish mother withdraws from the hostility of her surroundings into a state of mental confusion. As we follow Helene into adulthood, we watch riveted as the costs of survival and ill-fated love turn her into a woman capable of the unforgiveable.

Julia Franck's unforgettable English language debut throws new light on life in early-twentieth-century Germany, revealing the breathtaking scope of its citizens' denial—the "blindness of the heart" that survival often demanded.
 

About Julia Franck

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Anthea Bell was born in Suffolk, was educated at Somerville College, Oxford, and has worked as a translator for a number of years, primarily from German and French. Her translations include works of non-fiction, literary and popular fiction, and books for young people including classic German works by the Brothers Grimm, Clemens Brentano, Wilhelm Hauff and Christian Morgenstern. Bell has also served on the committee of the Translators` Association and the jury panel of the Schlegel-Tieck German translation prize in Great Britain. She has been the recipient of a number of translation prizes and awards, among them the 1987 Schlegel-Tieck Award for Hans Berman's The Stone and the Flute (Viking) and the first Marsh Award for Children's Literature in Translation for Christine Nöstlinger's A Dog's Life (Andersen Press). Bell was selected by a five-member jury as the recipient of the 2002 Helen and Kurt Wolff Translatorżs Prize for her exceptional translation of W.G. Sebald's novel Austerlitz, published Random House. He also won the Oxford Weidenfeld Translation Prize in 2009 for How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone.
 
Published October 5, 2010 by Grove Press. 416 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, History. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Blindness of the Heart

Kirkus Reviews

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Her central character, Helene Würsich, is the daughter of a printer who returns maimed and ruined from the battlefields of World War I, leaving Helene and her older sister Martha in the power of their mentally unstable mother Selma, “the foreign woman”—meaning Jewish, in the disapproving view of ...

Oct 05 2010 | Read Full Review of Blindness of the Heart: A Novel

The New York Times

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Her family in shambles, Julia Franck’s young heroine finds little solace in the decadence of Weimar Berlin.

Oct 15 2010 | Read Full Review of Blindness of the Heart: A Novel

Kirkus Reviews

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“I never wanted to be a judge, neither in moral nor ideological terms—though while writing you do realize how you measure your moral understanding.” Rather than writing about people, says Franck, she tries to take “their view, their sight, their perspective.” For a list of all the best fiction b...

Dec 13 2010 | Read Full Review of Blindness of the Heart: A Novel

The Washington Times

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The crucial point was not to disturb the mechanism of life, which meant sleeping only as long as was absolutely necessary, eating only as much as was absolutely necessary, and it was a relief to Helene that her work in the hospital divided every day into visible, regular units.” Time passes.

Oct 22 2010 | Read Full Review of Blindness of the Heart: A Novel

Review (Barnes & Noble)

This encounter is the straw that breaks the camel's back: a few days later Helene will take Peter to the train stain and abandon him there—bringing us back to the events of the prologue.

Oct 06 2010 | Read Full Review of Blindness of the Heart: A Novel

MostlyFiction Book Reviews

there are simply all kinds of loss – loss of one’s sanity, loss of innocence, loss of love, loss of the natural order of things, loss of hope.

Oct 22 2010 | Read Full Review of Blindness of the Heart: A Novel

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