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This extraordinarily honest and funny story of growing up as a child of survivors of the Holocaust reads a bit like the traditional family game of ‘Consequences’.
Mittel Europa met Middle England; in Moscow under Stalin’s purges and in North Britain during the Cold War; Father said, ‘Don’t you realise how you could damage my reputation?’; Mother said – nothing (until 50 years later she got Alzheimer’s).
Neither told their only daughter that they were Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany; the world said, ‘Yer talk funny’; and the consequence was, she joined the International Socialists, had an activist son full of teenage backchat, and tried to unpick the hidden history of her family.
It would be a pity if The Language of Silence was seen wholly as a Holocaust survivor story, because it also has much in common with recent memoirs from English literary women such as Xandra Bingley and Diana Athill, where painful histories are told with stoic wit. The whole book has that ‘deceptive simplicity’ of a highly crafted childlike voice. It is entirely without self pity.
I felt numberless jolts of recognition as Merilyn Moos and her central character (this is a novel, after all, though I was often reading it as life) go on with the tough work of finding out what parents don’t want their children to know.
How clearly I identified the temptation to draw back, the dark mystery pushing you on, the brutality of forcing out the truth and then the effort to piece all the fragments together, unearthing so much fear and horror along the way. And then, oh yes: getting into bed until you feel better.
Freudian insights, both about the way survivors are likely to behave and the kinds of people who join revolutionary movements, are worn lightly here. Above all the book reminded me of words I heard from the late Paul Foot, echoing Shelley, in telling us how much braver we are when we act together than we are alone.
Grace Blakeley investigates the curious case of Carillion: how the company’s slow decline and abrupt liquidation reveals the nature of modern capitalism.
The collapse of Carillion could be a watershed moment. Let's seize it to end economically disastrous outsourcing schemes. By Cat Hobbs.
Campaign groups highlight UK complicity in Saudi Arabia's human rights abuses.
Three founders of Momentum talk to Ashish Ghadiali about the two years that have transformed their lives and the fortunes of the British left.
Andrew Smith from Campaign Against the Arms Trade gives the run-down on one of the UK's most profitable - and most deadly - industries.
The real story behind the fire in Grande Synthe’s Linière refugee camp, Dunkirk. From 'Bordered Lives – How Europe fails refugees and migrants' by Hsiao-Hung Pai
Javier Pérez De La Cruz writes about the working class Berlin neighbourhood wrung dry by gentrifiers.
Across the world, thousands of protesters are taking on the planet’s biggest fossil fuel companies. We should support them – and if we can, we should join them. By Kara Moses
Students are suffering the effects of financial instability, stress, and slashed mental health services. Mark Crawford reports.
They're not defending free speech - they're just seeking to shore up their own power, writes Ilyas Nagdee
Jeremy Hunt is poised to flog the last of the NHS
Peter Roderick sounds the alarm on an 'attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS'.
Viva Siva, 1923-2018
A. Sivanandan, who died this week, was a hugely important figure in the politics of race and class. As part of our tributes, Red Pepper is republishing this 2009 profile of him by Arun Kundnani
Sivanandan: When memory forgets a giant
Daniel Renwick calls for the whole movement to discover and remember the vital work of A. Sivanandan, who died this week
A master-work of graphic satire
American Jewish cartoonist Eli Valley’s comic commentary on America, the US Jewish diaspora and Israel is nothing if not near the knuckle, Richard Kuper writes
Meet the frontline activists facing down the global mining industry
Activists are defending land, life and water from the global mining industry. Tatiana Garavito, Sebastian Ordoñez and Hannibal Rhoades investigate.
Transition or succession? Zimbabwe’s future looks uncertain
The fall of Mugabe doesn't necessarily spell freedom for the people of Zimbabwe, writes Farai Maguwu
Don’t let Corbyn’s opponents sneak onto the Labour NEC
Labour’s powerful governing body is being targeted by forces that still want to strangle Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, writes Alex Nunns