The Blindness Of The Heart
by Julia Franck
translated by Anthea Bell
It is 1945 and in the devastating opening scene, a young mother named Helene stands with her seven-year-old son in a provincial German railway station, amid the chaos of civilians fleeing west. Having survived with him through the horror and deprivation of the war years, Helene abandons her son on the station platform and never returns.
The story quickly circles back to Helene's childhood with her sister Martha in rural Germany, which came to an abrupt end with the outbreak of the First World War. Their father is sent to the eastern front, and their Jewish mother withdraws from the hostility of her surroundings into a state of mental confusion. In the early 1920s, after their father's death, Helene and Martha move to Berlin, where Helene falls in love with a philosophy student named Carl, and finds a place for herself for the first time. But when he dies just before their engagement, life becomes largely meaningless for her, and she takes refuge in her work as a nurse. At a party, Helene meets an ambitious civil engineer who wants to build motorways for the Reich and make Helene his wife. Their marriage proves disastrous, but produces a son, and Helene soon finds the love demanded by the little boy more than she can provide.
Julia Franck's unforgettable English language debut throws new light on life in early-twentieth-century Germany, revealing the breathtaking scope of its citizens' denial---the "blindness of the heart" that survival often demanded.
Hardback: 424 pages
Product Dimensions: 159 x 231 mm
Published by Grove Press