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L'Insouciance d'Ade'le (Dorval Editions)
By Chantal Osterreicher
Learning the "art de vivre" of France's capital and drinking in its intense beauty, riding her dashing non-Jewish lover's motorcycle, aiming to still the interior voices of children who died more than 50 years before she was born: These are some of Adele Dedalowitzch's goals.
L'Insouciance d'Ade'le (Dorval Editions), by Chantal Osterreicher, editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post Edition Francaise, explores the lives of second-generation Holocaust survivors who integrated into French society.
Adele is from the third generation, on the brink of assimilation. All her attempts to approach the Jewish community are tremendous failures. Like many people with Ashkenazi backgrounds still living in Europe, she doesn't know much about Judaism. When she tries spending Shabbat at a synagogue, she can't read the prayers, no one helps her and the guard at the entrance (a North African Jew) even doubts her Jewish identity.
So what brings the protagonist of L'Insouciance d'Ade'le back to her roots? Each time she visits her grandparents in their apartment on the East end of Paris, Frania Apfelbaum cooks Polish delicacies for her and tells her every little detail of her family's life during World War II. These stories disturb Adele, who lives a life full of complex dilemmas. Her mother, Rachel, urges her to listen carefully, and above all not to forget a word, because it is the only way for her to understand her roots and gain a sense of what peoplehood means to her.
"For me, it was too early; she could not speak. She chose you," says her mother.
Does Adele have the right to break her family's long chain of Jewishness because of the deep love she feels for her boyfriend, Fabien Revermont?
The novel, written during the second intifada, also examines the way the French media dealt with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and the unpleasant atmosphere that supporters of Israel felt. It is indeed interesting to know that many anti-Semitic incidents occurred during this period. They lead Adele to think that her grandmother was right when she said that even if the enemies today are not the same, what befell her family and her people could happen again. Is Israel a solution, when suicide bombers continue to perform their acts of hideous death?
(L'Insouciance d'Ade'le is currently only in print in French.)
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