Now in paperback, this European bestseller won huge -acclaim from U.S. critics, Jonathan Yardley of the Washington Post Book World declared this memoir of a Holocaust girlhood and a life reclaimed "one of the best books of 2001 . . . a book of surpassing, and at times brutal, honesty. . . . Among the many reasons that Still Alive is such an important book is its insistence that the full texture of women’s existence in the Holocaust be acknowledged."
Ruth Kluger’s story of her years in several concentration camps, and her struggle to establish a life after the war as a refugee survivor in New York, has emerged as one of the most powerful accounts of the Holocaust. Still Alive is a memoir of the pursuit of selfhood against all odds, a fiercely bittersweet coming-of-age story in which the protagonist must learn never to rely on comforting assumptions, but always to seek her own truth.
"A deeply moving and significant work . . . compared by European critics to the work of Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel."—Publishers Weekly
"A stunning contemplation of human relationships, power and the creation of history. . . . A work of such nuance, intelligence and force that it leaps the bounds of genre."—Kirkus Reviews
Ruth Kluger is professor emerita of German at the University of California, Irvine. She is the author of five books about German literature and the recipient of Austria’s National Prize for Literary Criticism. Her widely translated memoir has won eight European Literary awards. Lore Segal’s writings include the novels Other People’s Houses and Her First American.
Born in Vienna, Kluger somehow survived a girlhood spent in Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, and Gross-Rosen. Some of the lessons she imparts are surprising, as when she argues, against other historians, that the female camp guards were far more humane than their male counterparts, and when she admits that she has difficulty today queuing in line, a constant of camp life, "out of revulsion for the bovine activity of simply standing." Her memories of her youth are punctuated by sharp reflections on the meaning of the Shoah and how it should best be memorialized in a time when ever fewer survivors are left to act as witnesses. Those reflections are often angry--"Absolutely nothing good came out of the concentration camps," she writes, recalling an argument with a naive German graduate student, "and he expects catharsis, purgation, the sort of thing you go to the theatre for?"
But they are constantly provocative, too. Though readers will doubtless take issue with some of her conclusions, Kluger's insistent memoir merits a wide audience. --Gregory McNamee