Elizabeth Rosner's Novels
Much research, science and love has been devoted to the enterprise of solving the problem of intergenerational resentment. There are therapy groups for children of Nazis and Holocaust survivors as well as for other historically antagonistic groups. The work is ever evolving, and ever critical; 70 years after the Holocaust, these methodologies can be applied to the African genocides, American slavery and other atrocities.
In Blue Nude, Rosner's second award-winning novel (just released in paperback) the author uses the foil of art to explore how even subtle, generous gestures can provide hope, and healing when Merav, an Israeli art student takes a job posing for Danzig, a German painter. Over the course of the novel, Rosner tells a story of reconciliation.
Through deftly drawn characters, we learn why people run away, which traumas are unforgettable, which need to be let go. Rosner explores which vestiges of hatred are accepted, and which questioned. In this quiet novel we learn how two very different, very damaged people can open their hearts, move past their comfort zones and find a place of peace.
For this reader, it was almost as if Speed of Light, Rosner's earlier novel, laid the groundwork for Blue Nude and another level of intimacy and confrontation. Here, characters also move past comfort zones, some with the help of others, some of their own volition, but in Speed of Light characters tend to hold their intimates at arm's length, venturing only toes into the deep waters of emotionality. In Blue Nude our protagonist submerges her entire body -- into a bathtub. Talk about deep waters.
In both books, war is interwoven as a character, a presence, and a still festering wound. Although the two books deal with two different kinds of war, the link is that both explore the wars of the heart.
As a child of Holocaust survivors this makes perfect sense. Rosner might not have lived through a war, but a war hung over the family table like a raincloud.
I recently caught up with Elizabeth Rosner via phone while she was in San Miguel de Allende. "My books are about home. How to leave home and how to find it. How we leave our physical homes and find our emotional homes." She explained that she is fascinated by displacement and how people find themselves in foreign cultures.
"Creative practice can also provide that homecoming," Rosner explained. "In all my characters, I utilize my own attention to the senses -- sound and absence of sound, visuals and the absence. In San Miguel, I had the opportunity to meet a lot of painters, and hang around with artists. I also modeled so I knew firsthand what that practice entailed."
Can writers make a difference? "The anti-war novel is my form of activism. Through exploring the personal and historical, we can find hope for transcending the past, the pain, and the anger. And, as for reconciliation, by facing the other, we are healed."
Rosner's books are character driven. "In my world, I write what's in front of me. The story takes care of itself."
To be sure, when one reaches the end of an Elizabeth Rosner novel, one feels a sense of recognition, a sigh of relief perhaps, that seemingly untenable situations can find a way to resolution. Like a welcome cadence following a stirring, complex passage, the books bring us home -- to safe harbor, to a place where we might not be the people we expected to be but we can find a certain sweetness in life, can find connection, can come, if not to where we started, to a home of our making.
We are all living in the moment while navigating the past. Rosner's characters travel these challenging roads with grace, tenderness and courage.
Follow Joan Gelfand on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JoanGelfand