Fugitive Pieces: A Novel
Anne Michaels’s fiercely beautiful debut novel tells the interlocking stories of three men of different generations whose lives are transformed by the events and shifting effects of the same war. At its center is poet Jakob Beer: traumatically orphaned as a young boy during the Second World war, rescued from the mud of a buried Polish city and secreted to a Greek island by Athos Roussos, scientist, scholar, and, above all, humanist. After the war, in Toronto, where Athos has accepted a teaching post at the University, Jakob is faced with the tangible, insistent nature of the recent past: his own surfacing in all its darkness and profundity, the question of his beloved sister’s fate its harrowing focus. Yet this is also the time when he meets the woman who will become his first wife, and begins his life-long work as a translator and poet. And in this layered process of reentering life, Jakob learns the power of language – to destroy, to omit, and to obliterate; but also to witness and tell, conjure and restore. And it is in Toronto as well that, late in his life, Jakob will cross paths with Ben: a young professor, expert in the dramas of weather and biography but naive in the drama of his own life. The quiet elation Ben senses in the older man, and Ben’s own connection to the wounding legacies of the war, kindle a fascination with Jakob and his writing, upsetting and then opening that part of himself long since shut down against his knowledge of the past.
A stunning debut novel from an award-winning poet. Jakob Beer, traumatically orphaned as a young child during World War II, learns over his lifetime the power of language to destroy, omit, and obliterate, and also to restore, conjure and witness, as he comes to understand and experience the extent of what was lost to him and of what is possible to regain.