Saturday’s Book: “The Heritage” by Siegfried Lenz – Vol. 1

Yes, that’s right, volume one. This book, at least in its Hebrew translation (from German), comes in two volumes. I read much slower in Hebrew than I do in English, however the book itself is not a “slow read” at all. In fact it reads just like a screenplay, I don’t think it needs much adapting for the cinema at all!

The book begins by the burning down of the Heritage Museum of an area in Germany called Mazuria. This is not a spoiler as this is the event on which the rest of the book is based – a tale of the reasons why such a dramatically violent act of obliterating the past are called for. In Hebrew it is not called the Heritage Museum but rather “The Homeland Museum”. I understand the author wants to give the word its proper meaning, not the one of slogans, of parties that came later. His main message is not clear to me yet, but I understand from the recommendations I  got that it will most certainly be.

The narrator of the book, who is the one who burned the museum, lies in his hospital bed, describing to a visitor how he came to do what he did, beginning in his child.  The descriptions are vivid, detailed and rich,  of a world long gone, not necessarily a beautiful one either. At times the tales remind me of films by Emir Kusturica – a combination of squalid life, poverty and ignorance combined with extraordinary events and humor. Unfortunately, the book doesn’t have the wonderful music that the Kusturica films have!

Will write again about this book when I get to volume two. A pity I didn’t get a hold of the book in English though, the translation is a pretty old one. It doesn’t matter – couldn’t have read the original version in any case!


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