Returning from Silence: Jenny’s Story by Michèle Sarde
Translator: Ruper Swyer
A novel that tells the story of a Jewish family in World War II and reaches deep into Jewish history.
Born in Brittany on the threshold of World War II, novelist Michèle Sarde had long been silent about her origins. After her mother, Jenny, finally shared their family history, Sarde decided to reconstruct Jenny’s journey, including her exile from Salonica, move to Paris in 1921, and assimilation in France. The Nazi occupation then forced her and her family to hide and conceal their Jewish identity, and in this retelling, Sarde shows how Jenny fights with everything she has to survive the Holocaust and protect her daughter.
Returning from Silence is a powerful saga that reaches deep into Jewish history, opening with the Expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 and their settlement in a more tolerant Ottoman Empire. Sephardi culture and language flourished in Salonica for four centuries, but with the fall of the Ottoman Empire in the 1920s, and the sense of troubling times to come, Jenny’s family felt impelled to leave their much-loved city and rebuild their lives in France. Their years in France led to change that none could have fully expected, and then, the Holocaust. The trauma lasts well into the post-war period, silencing both mother and daughter in unanticipated ways.
Through this family history, Sarde sensitively raises questions about identity, migration, and assimilation while weaving fiction together with history, research, and testimony to bring the characters’ stories to life.
Year first published: 2022