It was two years ago that I advocated for Lies, First Person at Open Letter. And here it is in print! In anticipation of its February publication date I’ll be buying and re-reading Hareven’s first work The Confessions of Noa Weber. I can’t talk this book up any more! See more at Lies, First Person
From the 2010 winner of the Best Translated Book Award comes a harrowing, controversial novel about a woman’s revenge, Jewish identity, and how to talk about Adolf Hitler in today’s world.
Elinor’s comfortable life—popular newspaper column, stable marriage, well-adjusted kids—is totally upended when she finds out that her estranged uncle is coming to Jerusalem to give a speech asking forgiveness for his decades-old book, Hitler, First Person. A shocking novel that galvanized the Jewish diaspora, Hitler, First Person was Aaron Gotthilf’s attempt to understand—and explain—what it would have been like to be Hitler. As if that wasn’t disturbing enough, while writing this controversial novel, Gotthilf stayed in Elinor’s parent’s house and sexually assaulted her “slow” sister.
In the time leading up to Gotthilf’s visit, Elinor will relive the reprehensible events of that time so long ago, over and over, compulsively, while building up the courage—and plan—to avenge her sister in the most conclusive way possible: by murdering Gotthilf, her own personal Hilter. Along the way, Gail Hareven uses an obsessive, circular writing style to raise questions about Elinor’s own mental state. Is it possible that Elinor is following in her uncle’s writerly footpaths, using a first-person narrative to manipulate the reader into forgiving a horrific crime?