August 4, 2011


Ursula Hegi, Children and Fire: A Novel (New York: Scribner, 2011) ("Some books were still smoldering at dawn, but most had disintegrated to ashes when the cleaning crews shoveled them into wheelbarrows, swept the market square, and hauled aways the debris." "Yet, the charred remains got tracked throughout the village, got inside your houses, and soiled your floors even if you hadn't been near the pyre. As the smell of wet ashes seeped through your closed windows and doors, it settled in your bedding, your clothing, your wardrobes. The affront of that smell--flat and nasty--made you want to spit. You were sure you'd never get used to it; and yet despite your ceaseless scrubbing an airing, it would become part of your own smell, in your breath, on your skin, increasingly familiar." Id. at 235. From the bookjacket: "As Ursula Hegi writes along the edge where sorrow and bliss meet, she shows us how one society--educated, cultural, compassionate--can skip into a reality that's fabricated by propaganda and controlled by fear, how a surge of national unity can be manipulated into the dehumanization of a perceived enemy and the justification for torture and murder." Weimar Germany morphing into Nazi Germany. Is post-9/11 America in the process of a similar disintegration?).