the far side of the sky-daniel kalla

a novel of love and death in shanghai

“i love you but your help isn’t helping”

“all readers are not leaders, but all leaders are readers”

yes, tal-even the bad ones. intelligence and intent are not always aligned. big thanks to nehal for the excerpt that i read on entry-level goat cheese that i read half an hour ago, and to vincia for that kid in a snuggie remaking countdown. i am nothing without the brilliant women that hover about me. i’m one step closer to acknowledging the forest of reading (by yelling excitedly at librarians on the tweeter-oh boy), and i got the idea to look at all the lists in my break from LTR, because i’m sure that the kids’ books are just as great as the regulation humans’. this one is another stunning example of canadian writers telling an alternate side of the WWII story. from yann martel’s beatrice and virgil and esi edugyan’s half blood blues to the current evergreen book that i’m devouring, frances itani’s requiem, this collection is pretty mighty. the author pulls no punches, starting the story in kristallnacht, and does not relent in calling out the complicity that is the silence necessary for atrocities to keep happening.

“Aside from the Jews, the rest of Vienna seemed to have awoken to a typical autumn day. Non-Jewish businesses, their windows pristine, welcomed customers as usual. The scent of baking bread and brewing coffee filled the air. Gentiles bustled along the sidewalks past the broken windows, vandalized storefronts and Jews scrubbing the roads under armed guard as though it were a morning like any other.
Has the whole city gone mad?” (20)

“‘Ah.’ Franz nodded. ‘The extremists, like the rabid Nazis who would kill us Jews with their own hands, have always been around. But the complicit moderates! They are the ones who empower the fanatics. People like this diplomat who are too educated to believe Hitler’s nonsense about a superior race but happy to benefit from his hostile policies. They have
turned a blind eye and allowed the fanatics to spread their poison and terrorize people at will. Ultimately, men like
Swartzmann have done the most damage.'” (232-3)

i also appreciate the politics of aid, power struggles that play out in taking advantage of people in tragic situations, moving from bad to worse situations, children of dead mothers and their abandonment issues, martyr fathers, and very pivotal letters.


2 thoughts on “the far side of the sky-daniel kalla

  1. parental guidance:

    “Jakob’s impeccable logic left Franz speechless. He recognized that he had just been outmanoeuvred. And in that moment, he realized that he would never see his father again.” (57)

    “Sunny sighed, frustrated by her father’s self-deprecation. Kingsley was one of the first physicians in Shanghai to prescribe insulin and had become a leading diabetes specialist. However, he had never shed his sense of professional humility, ingrained after so many years of schooling and practising with the British doctors who, even while seeking his guidance and expertise, still looked down their noses at him.” (84)

    “Lately, Hannah often referenced Jewish customs and biblical stories of which he had little to no recollection. He had attended a secular public school as one of only three Jews in his class. He found it ironic that his daughter, who was half Christian by birth, was growing up far more Jewish than he ever had.” (249)

    “Franz had written the letter to Hannah as soon as he returned home earlier in the day from the Cathay Hotel. As he wrote, he appreciated how conflicted Schwartzmaan and, especially, his father must have felt as they penned missives intended for posthumous reading. He sprinkled the letter with random thoughts and advice on career, relationships and the keys-as he saw them-to finding contentment in life. Franz finished, in the same way his father had, by stressing his incredible pride in and love for his child. Tears rolled down his cheeks as he signed the letter.” (431)

  2. the breaking of the heart:

    “Simon shook his head. ‘The Nazis in Germany…the Japanese here in Shanghai…’ He sighed. ‘Treating people as less than human because of the shape of their faces or the sound of their last names. Where will it end, Sunny?'” (98)

    “While neither Franz nor Lotte were in a hurry to advance their relationship, Clara Reuben made it her priority. She no longer relied on persuasiveness or guilt alone, but had become even more direct, suggesting that unless Franz married into the family, her husband
    would have trouble continuing to fund his modest salary at the Country Hospital. She also implied that Hannah’s scholarship at the exclusive Shanghai Jewish School would be in jeopardy. For Franz, the latter was a far weightier threat. Hannah was thriving at school, where both the teachers and the students seemed sensitive to her handicap. Franz was
    prepared to do anything to protect his daughter’s well-being, even marry a woman he did not love.” (207)

    “Most of all, she remembered how her heart broke wider with each step she took away from him.” (262)

    “Even though Nogomi had survived the operation, Franz knew that the odds were still stacked against the general, and as Franz watched the nurses bandage the general’s abdomen, the sting of Reuben’s betrayal had burned deeper. Any competent surgeon could have performed the operation. Fate, not surgical prowess, would determine Nogomi’s outcome. Reuben would have known it too.” (294)

    “Franz’s heart melted at the sight of his eleven-year-old daughter flanked by his fiancee on one side and the woman he loved on the other.” (296)

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