My grandfather’s head

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  • Published 20150505
  • ISBN: 9781922182807
  • Extent: 264 pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

I FORGOT THE ‘great pogrom’, as my grandmother Edith Bonyhady called Kristallnacht with the voice of experience. I was booking a flight to Vienna where Good Living Street (Allen & Unwin, 2011), my book about my great-grandmother Hermine Gallia, grandmother Gretl and mother Anne, was to appear in German in August 2013. The publisher, Zsolnay, had arranged for me to give a series of talks that November, so I chose to arrive a few days before the first and to return the day after the last, without thinking these dates might be of any special significance. Ten days before my departure, as I began to prepare these talks, I jogged up Mount Ainslie, one of the best places to think in Canberra, and it struck me: I was scheduled to leave Vienna on the seventy-fifth anniversary of Kristallnacht.

I was not sure what to do. I assumed that, had Zsolnay thought about the anniversary, one of its staff would have told me. When I got home, I considered letting things be but then emailed Zsolnay: ‘It was only today, while working on what I wanted to say when I present the book, that I realised that, when I am talking in Vienna and Salzburg, it will be almost exactly seventy-five years since my grandmother, great-aunt and mother fled to Switzerland; that I am due to return to Australia on the seventy-fifth anniversary of Kristallnacht; and that the seventy-fifth anniversary of Gretl’s and Anne’s departure is, of course, just three days later. While I am not much of a one for anniversaries, that does seem quite momentous to me. I was wondering if, perhaps, you might want to make more of this.’

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