Sunday, 26 April 2020

Under A Red Sky by Haya Leah Molnar

Under A Red Sky by Haya Leah Molnar
Published by Farrar, Strauss and Giroux on the 30th March 2010.

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Eva Zimmermann is eight years old, and she has just discovered she is Jewish. Such is the life of an only child living in postwar Bucharest, a city that is changing in ever more frightening ways. Eva's family, full of eccentric and opinionated adults, will do absolutely anything to keep her safe—even if it means hiding her identity from her. With razor-sharp depictions of her animated relatives, Haya Leah Molnar's memoir of her childhood captures with touching precocity the very adult realities of living behind the iron curtain.

Under A Red Sky by Haya Leah Molnar, formerly Eva Zimmerman, is the second autobiography by a young Jewish girl that I have read in the past couple of weeks (other being A Delayed Life by Dita Kraus). Born in post-war Communist Romania, Molnar herself had no direct Holocaust experiences but the darkness of that then-immediately recent past is always hovering in the background, particularly in the ways that Eva's extended family try to protect her. For example they don't even risk telling her that she is Jewish until she is eight years old for fear that she might blurt that truth out in front of the 'wrong' people.

Molnar writes from the perspective of her childish self which I really liked as I could easily understand her confusion at things which seemed obvious to the adults around her. She has a knack for bringing out the humour in situations and I loved how she captures her relations' diverse personalities. The only child in a three-generation household, she is usually either spoilt or ignored by the adults in their cramped apartment. The situation of eight people (two couples, one bachelor uncle, and Eva with her parents) with a live-in maid reminded me of Daniil Kharms' Russian Absurd descriptions of Soviet communal apartment life in the 1930s. It sounds an absolute nightmare, especially when Romanian authorities suddenly decide to forbid Jews from working so practically everybody is stuck home all day with no income. The adults dream of being chosen to emigrate to their spiritual home of Israel, but Eva has never even left Bucharest so cannot imagine how a distant desert land could be her home.

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  1. It's not my usual type of book but it does sound interesting.

    1. Eva's childhood sounds to have been wonderful within her own family environment, by a nightmare where it met with the outside world in Romania at that time