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And the Rat Laughed

Nava Semel
And The Rat Laughed is a five-part novel dealing with the horrors of the Holocaust and the influence of this harrowing chapter of human history on man’s relationship with God; on the understanding of human nature; on the need to forget in order to survive; and on the need to remember, nonetheless.
Part One is the story of a nameless five-year-old child, as it is told to her granddaughter years later. The child`s parents entrust her to a family of farmers living in a remote, picturesque village. She is hidden in a dark potato cellar for approximately a year, with little food and only a rat for company - and raped repeatedly by the farmers` son. The narrative, which alternately advances and retreats, also presents a metafictional contemplation of the act of storytelling: What is its purpose? Does it really have the power to liberate the storyteller? Does the act of silencing and obliteration transform memory into an independent entity, governed by memory - "the story`s legal offspring"?
Part Two is the granddaughter`s diary, which sheds more light on the survivor`s story as well as on the title of the novel. The rat, according to the alternative myth of creation related by the grandmother, demanded that God grant him the gift of laughter, but soon came to realize God`s most miserable mistake: "... in a world where children must be hidden ...chaos is not simply an incidental "bug," but a complete systems breakdown. Such a world should be destroyed from its foundations and rebuilt from the start."
Part Three, a collection of poems ostensibly written by the survivor child, is followed by a research report (Part Four) written in the year 2099 by an anthropologist bent on uncovering the origins of the widespread "Girl and Rat" myth. This chapter, which defines myth as "encrypted historical memory," is also a reflection on the nature of memory - its persistent presence in man`s consciousness; its scarring effects; and the possibility of subsequent hope: "A historical scar is indeed no guarantee that horrific events will not repeat themselves; the existence of memory can, nevertheless, grant some hope." Part Five, the novel`s final chapter, is the diary of the priest who takes the child in. In an attempt to restore her speech, her hope and her faith in God and mankind, he discovers that he has lost his own.


A world that is becoming all too unreal to all too many people is here recaptured, brought to the light, through a process that everyone can empathize with and understand.
Author Leslie Epstein

A powerful and deeply arresting novel.
Australia Jewish News

An exquisitely wrought meditation… integrating story, legend, poetry, dream, science fiction and diary.
Forward (USA)

One of the most interesting new books.
Buchhändler

Semel And the Rat Laughed
Title And the Rat Laughed
Author’s Last Name Semel
Author's First Name Nava
Language(s) English, German, Italian, Romanian
Genre novel
Publisher (Hebrew) Yedioth Ahronoth
Year of Publication (Hebrew) 2001
No. Pages 249 pp.
Book title - Hebrew (phonetic) Tzchok Shel Achbarosh
Representation Represented by ITHL

Translations

German: Mannheim, Persona, 2007
English: Victoria, Austr., Hybrid, 2008
Italian: Rome, Atmosphere Libri, 2012
Romanian: Bucharest, Hasefer, 2014
 
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