Triumph Street, Bucharest
By Dov Hoenig, translated by Gavin Bowd
Bucharest, before and during World War II. Bernard Davidescou lives with his parents and his older brother on Triumph Street, in the middle of a courtyard block inhabited by a dozen Jewish families and two Christian ones.When Romania under General Ion Antonescu’s dictatorship allies itself with Hitler and invades the USSR, the Jews in Bucharest face the threat of being sent to the Nazi extermination camps, after having survived the terror of the fascist Iron Guard. However, each Sunday morning, young Bernard, age twelve, passionate about politics and history, amazes the adults in the courtyard, Jews and Christians alike, with his analysis of the political situation in Romania and the development of the war on all fronts.
Triumph Street is the story of this young man and his dreams and torments during this dark period of human history, while also chronicling a family in crisis, the discovery of sexuality and first loves, and the distraction offered by the cinema, religious searching and idealistic aspirations for a better world.
"In a publishing industry that loves to lather its debuts in frothy hype, this is one of the quiet ones. It is also one of the year's finest . . . What makes this such a rich novel is its ability to marry the darkness of world history with the colour of personal history."
Rónán Hession, The Irish Times
"The author captures with sensitivity the emotions of a young boy who survives tyranny, while leading an almost ordinary life taken up with school, the alarming opposite sex, adoring Rita Hayworth and spying on the attractive next-door neighbour."
Le Figaro Litéraire
"With a rare, vivid power he evokes the anti-Semitism and its barbaric manifestations present everywhere in this vast fresco of the countries of Eastern Europe. Triumph Street Bucharest is an original and powerful work, a ‘Bildungs Roman' enriched by the lens of History."
"Bernard has achieved his dream: that is the story of this debut book. A long path to adulthood, the recollections of youth and of the struggle to break away to live his life: This is a universal story. Here coupled with an exciting perspective on community and historical events, that keep the reader in suspense throughout."
Jean-Jacques Beineix, film-maker, author, historian
"(Rue de Triomphe) is of a time and a place that we know very little, if anything, about, and as such is fascinating. It is the story of a sensitive boy’s life in a close Jewish community in Bucharest before, during and after World War II. All this against the backdrop of anti-semitism, the rise of the country’s fervently nationalist Iron Guard, Romania’s alliance with Nazi Germany and the boy’s dream of getting to Palestine. The writing is almost cinematic in its detail: you can virtually see the house and courtyard where the boy grows up, the Jewish youth camp his brother attends, the cramped quarters on the ship transporting young Jews to Palestine. The characters and relationships within the boy’s family are especially well-drawn."
Christina Zorić, award-winning translator from French
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