With this volume, Barbara Honigmann gives us the stories of two very different women and their attempts to rise from the ashes of their former lives.
The narrator of “A Love Made Out of Nothing” is a woman who leaves her life in Berlin to start over as a student in Paris. Although she has escaped from her past life and is finally living in the city of her dreams, she finds herself isolated and imprisoned. She discovers that the life of an expatriate has its own difficulties and loneliness, and that she remains tied to her old existence by her complex relationship with her possessive and manipulative father, whose history of wandering from city to city and wife to wife has cast a long shadow over her life.
“Zohara’s Journey” tells the story of Zohara, a devoutly religious Sephardic Jew “repatriated” to southern France during the Algerian War. Having wandered from one French city to another with her husband Simon, an itinerant rabbi who claims to be the Rabbi of Singapore, she wants to believe that the family has finally settled in Strasbourg when Simon returns from a long absence and disappears with their six children. In the struggle to locate her children and piece her life back together, Zohara comes to question the man she thought she knew, and the religion that has dominated both of their lives.
Honigmann’s view encompasses the universal (and perhaps the mythical) as well as the autobiographical and social. In these two intimate novellas, she communicates in spare and elegant prose the terror and the thrill that come with starting over. Dense with imagery and emotion, these powerful novellas speak directly to the nature of isolation and, ultimately, to the necessity of self-reliance.