Remote Sympathy: LONGLISTED FOR THE WOMEN’S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2022
SHORTLISTED: THE DUBLIN LITERARY AWARD
LONGLISTED: WOMENS’ PRIZE FOR FICTION 2022
A NOVEL OF DEVASTATING BEAUTY SET IN BUCHENWALD DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR
“A powerful and disturbing study in terrible lies and the human need to believe them.”
Moving away from their lovely apartment in Munich isn’t nearly as wrenching an experience for Frau Greta Hahn as she had feared. Their new home is even lovelier than the one they left behind and life in Buchenwald would appear to be idyllic. Lying just beyond the forest that surrounds them is the looming presence of a work camp. Frau Hahn’s husband, SS Sturmbannfuhrer Dietrich Hahn, has been assigned as the camp’s administrator.
When Frau Hahn’s poor health leads her into an unlikely and poignant friendship with one of Buchenwald’s prisoners, Dr Lenard Weber, her naive ignorance about what is going on so nearby is challenged. A decade earlier, Dr Weber had invented a machine believed that its subtle resonances might cure cancer. But does it really work? One way or another, it might save a life.
A tour de force about the evils of obliviousness, Remote Sympathy compels us to question our continuing and wilful ability to look the other way in a world that is in thrall to the idea that everything-even facts and morals-is relative.
"Highly original and deeply researched, Catherine Chidgey's Remote Sympathy is a powerful and disturbing study in terrible lies and the human need to believe them. The setting is the Nazi "labor" camp Buchenwald in the final years of World War II. The horrific is made ordinary with the focus on the small family of the fictional camp administrator, SS Dietrich Hahn, his dying wife Greta and son Karl-Heinz. To save his much-loved Greta, Hahn orders Dr. Leonard Weber, inventor of an electrotherapy contraption, the Sympathetic Vitaliser, to attend her. Weber lies about the impossible life-saving power of the Vitaliser, Hahn lies about the fates of Weber's Jewish wife Anna and daughter Lotte. The interlocking betrayals, dangerous deceptions, and hopeless hopes gather strength. Few readers will close the covers of this book unshaken." * Annie Proulx * "Immersive, profound, and beautifully plotted." * The Guardian * "Moving and unusual... Catherine Chidgey's novel is a fine achievement." * The Sunday Times * "Chidgey is a find." * TLS * "Powerful." * The New York Times * "With its multiple registers and complex view of humanity, this marks a vital turn in Holocaust literature." * Publishers' Weekly - starred * "One of the most original, brave and profound explorations of the darkest recesses of the human heart I have ever read." -- Sylvia Nasar, author of A Beautiful Mind "The writing is beautifully wrought and the research a result of years of study. The true sympathetic vitaliser here is the novelist. She illustrates the senseless cruelty of the regime and portrays its characters convincingly, not as monsters but deluded, indulged and frightened victims of their own stupidity." * The Jewish Chronicle * "Wise, inventive, insightful and extraordinarily astute about both the darkness and the light in human nature, Catherine Chidgey gives us a riveting historical novel that is piercingly relevant to our time. What do we choose to see and what not to see and what are the consequences? Remote Sympathy broke and awakened my heart in equal measure. One of the best books I've read in years." -- Stacey D'Erasmo, author of Wonderland "Remote Sympathy will touch your heart and imprint on your soul. This is a thought provoking tale of love, dignity and sacrifice, encompassing, as it does, a grief so huge that only the human heart can bear it, though goodness knows how." * NB Magazine * "An insightful account of human nature set against the chaos of war. It is a moving examination of the human condition and well worth serious attention." * Historical Novels Review * "An incredibly accomplished novel." * Word by Word * "A wonderful new talent." -- Nick Hornby
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