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Сбогом Шанхай Selected as a runner up in the 2007 National Jewish Book Award category for fictionThe unforgettable novel of nearly forgotten refugees who fled Nazi Germany and discovered the glamour and excess of ShanghaiElisabeth and Theodore Weissberg famous musicians Hilde a young film extra and Vladek an Eastern European adventurer wanted by the police on political charges flee Nazi Germany for Shanghai at the onset of World War II A magnet for every human ambition and vice Shanghai is a city of extremes—of dazzling wealth and wretched poverty suffering and pleasure and for the four refugees exile and safety There they enter the world of Jewish refugees many of them artists and intellectuals who must either starve or eke out an impoverished and sometimes degraded living but they are determined to live intelligently upholding the high culture humor and even insofar as they can the elegance of their former lives Master storyteller Angel Wagenstein crafts an intense narrative of life and death passionate love and profound courage against the backdrop of the war and the millions of lives caught up in it Chose this from my China shelf Hopefully it will set the stage for my trip to China this summer I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this I thought I was satiated with WWII novels but the setting for this one moves from Paris to Shanghai and deals with a situation I was not very familiar with Shanghai was a free international city during the early years of the war Wagenstein's treatment of the class distinctions between the resident Jews and refugees was intruiging The dilemmas and conflicts of this international city occupied by the Japanese were clearly laid out The love story gave the book continuity and flow And I had my Shanghai map out the whole time When I was in my teens I began reading books on the holocaust Most of them had pictures taken by soldiers who liberated the camps These pictures showed the survivors skin and bones many times naked and because of this it would have been difficult to identify a member of your family because by this time they all looked similar I was horrified but I couldn't cry It was not until I read another book on Auschwitz which had in it a picture of a middle aged woman dressed in her best and holding the hand of her young son who carried a handkerchief with all his best things that I began to cry because I knew by then that within minutes of their arrival they both would have been taken to the gas chamber The nazi's had no use for children nor women who would fight to protect their children For years I thought that the Jewish refugees who could make it to Shanghai were lucky since they were accepted there After reading Farewell Shanghai I realize that although the jews were safer there then in Europe it was not an easy life nor one without the theat of harm Although this is fiction I believe some of these events are based on real events It is not an easy book to read but no holoccaust litereature is The writer is a Bulgarian Jew and I am always amazed how many jewish writers can put so much humor into books with so much depravity and horror I thought it was a fantastic book but not for someone with a weak stomach I have been all over the map with this book First of all particularly in the first half of the book I found the writing confusing Here is an example of what you will have to contend with The days and months flowed by heavily and monotonously with no news from Elisabeth in contrast to normal prisons with legal regulations here correspondence was forbidden and the hour long morning and evening roll calls always with the small three times cursed pastry shop and the constantly perfected art of not stirring up in Hansi Steinbrenner the desire to hit you on the back with his club to the exact rhythm of the tango page 79This is one sentence and it composes one paragraph It is too long and parts are nonsensical I am not sure who is at fault the author or the translator There are numerous such sentences that make reading difficult understanding compromised and enjoyment impossible Repeatedly words are placed in the wrong order particularly adverbs Sure you do understand what is being said but the natural flow of words is disrupted For me who particularly seeks a book that is well written this detracts from the uality of the book I am forced to only read this for “what happens” The focus must be on the plot alone So what is the book about? During the Second World War when all countries were closing their doors to the Jews the only place left for many was Shanghai This book deals with life there in Shanghai particularly the life of the Jewish émigrés In 1937 the Japanese took control and soon the émigré Jews from Germany and Austria found themselves restricted to a ghetto in Hongku a suburb of Shanghai Life there was unimaginably horrible overcrowded rife with filth vermin and disease But Shanghai was a city of extremes There too were found the luxurious uarters of the “International Concessions” This book deals with life here in this city This is interesting and this is what kept me readingThe author certainly incorporates humor into the book Humor can be so varied; does this amuse you? Mr Vincent Vladek has been summoned to the office of Lord Washburn The lord’s secretary begins ”Mister Vincent it’s none of my business but may I allow myself to draw your attention to the fact that Lord Washburn is not accustomed to a lack of punctuality on the part of his subordinates”Mr Vincent was surprised in turn“Subordinates did you say? Oh subordinates Look now young lady I am not a subordinate of the lord’s for three reasons At least three First because I am not a soldier in Her Majesty’s colonial army but a freelance journalist Second I‘m not an English subject but through a lucky coincidence Swiss And third as a rule I subordinate myself to nothing and no one apart from the laws of my canton They have their own state laws in case you haven’t heard “ page 221 The meeting continues “He ordered you to appear before him immediately This I hope doesn’t violate the laws of your canton And please keep it short because he has another meeting “And the secretary in order to be convincing looked at her watch again before ushering him into the office of the lordThe man who had just come in introduced himself cheerfully “Jean Loup Vincent sir At your service”With the self assurance of a general who doesn’t shake hands with lowly privates just like that Lord Washburn declined the proffered hand His own hands crossed behind his back he looked with curiosity at the ragged Swiss with the unbuttoned shirt and rolled up sleeves stopping with surprise at the latter’s enormous thick soled boots Vladek followed his eyes and lent over to admire in turn his boots for a moment “Ah my boots great aren’t they? From the Spanish Republican Army For two years I marched as a correspondent with them from Gibraltar to the Pyrenees and in spite of everything they are still like new You’ll die laughing but during the bombing of Madrid—“The lord interrupted him “I have not invited you to tell me the story of your boots”“Oh really then how can I be of use to you?” pages 222 223Often the humor is ironic in tone After Pearl Harbor the following is noted To believe that it was only Washington that had the bad habit of rejecting every piece of information contrary to its preconceptions about the world is than naive French nonchalance which almost bordered on treason despite precise information gathered by agents about Hitler’s real plans proves the point as well No one’s lunch in Paris was spoiled even when reports started flowing in that suddenly thousands of German tourists were pouring into Luxembourg and spreading tents all along the French border No one bothered to talk to even one of these German nature lovers and to inuire a bit further about what they were doing there and why they preferred border landscapes to all others And what about sleepy head Moscow carelessly ignoring intelligence from the Ramsay group which together with other reliable sources in Europe kept issuing warnings about impending German aggression against the Soviet Union?But the Kremlin masters had their own views on the matter preferring to contemplate their own navels rather than listen to unpleasant news pages 242 243History is served with humor and irony This I enjoy At the same time I had a hard time understanding parts Was it the writing or was it my stupidity? I do not know The spy details left me confused It is important to note that they play a significant role in the plot Nowhere in the book’s description is it said that his is a spy novel I personally do not enjoy spy intrigues Please do not consider this book if you do not like spy novelsFinally by the end of the novel I grew to care for the principal characters I did but it certainly took a while and some of the plot twists are implausible What happens to the principle protagonists is overblown too exciting too amazing and too melodramatic The plot is made for the movies Do you like that kind of book? I don’t but maybe the book will fit you perfectlyMy last complaint is that there is an exceedingly short author’s note at the end The story is based on true events and people mixed with fiction One character is a composite of several real people I would have preferred a detailed explanation of what was true and what was fiction Given my personal preferences I cannot give this book than two stars If you are curious about Shanghai during the war I would instead recommend Shanghai Diary A Young Girl's Journey from Hitler's Hate to War Torn China Now that was my kind of book My review Although the book was slow at first I found the book moving us through this historical period as if we were there it allowed us to experience the lives of several individuals as they experienced the war Moreover the author has done a remarkable job of bringing to life historical fact about the Holocaust that is often overlooked I liked this book

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