Lies, First Person

Gail Hareven; Dalya Bilu, trans.
  • Review
By – April 17, 2015

All of the sub­plots in Gail Hareven’s new nov­el relate back to the sto­ry of Aaron Gotthilf, who wrote the book Hitler, First Per­son. The book asks the read­ers to for­give the hor­rif­ic crimes of the Holo­caust. As he tries to explain Hitler’s mind­set, Gotthilf writes from Hitler’s per­spec­tive, attempt­ing to make him a real and sym­pa­thet­ic human being.

While writ­ing the nov­el, Gotthilf was wel­comed in his cousin’s house­hold, where he raped and impreg­nat­ed one of the chil­dren, Eli­she­va. The main char­ac­ter, Eli­nor, has nev­er recov­ered from this hideous crime that cul­mi­nat­ed in her sister’s abor­tion and men­tal break­down, as well as her mother’s sui­cide. What unleash­es Elinor’s anger thir­ty years lat­er is the apol­o­gy tour” of her uncle, who wants to see her, but even more pow­er­ful is the trip she takes to Amer­i­ca to warn her sis­ter. She is dis­gust­ed when she finds out her sis­ter has become a born-again Chris­t­ian, while cor­re­spond­ing with, and for­giv­ing Gotthilf. As her rage accel­er­ates Eli­nor becomes obsessed with the urge to see Aaron burn.” Aaron is cru­el on a per­son­al lev­el for the unpun­ished crime of rap­ing her sis­ter numer­ous times and on a soci­etal lev­el for author­ing such an out­ra­geous narrative.

What makes this sto­ry­line inter­est­ing is how the author takes a soci­etal issue, the Holo­caust, and con­dens­es the evil to one crime, the rape of Eli­she­va. The lin­ger­ing ques­tion asked through­out the book is, how should some­one con­front evil? Do they for­give, as in the case of Eli­she­va, do they seek revenge and vengeance, as in the case of Eli­nor, or do they cast out the antag­o­nist with a firestorm of crit­i­cism, as in the case of the Holo­caust sur­vivors’ reac­tions to Gotthilf?

Lies, First Per­son is a por­trait of a woman’s obses­sion. The plot gets into the head of the main char­ac­ter, Eli­nor, as she strug­gles with her own emo­tions. The com­par­i­son with Hitler allows for a well-devel­oped plot as Eli­nor tries to wipe for­ev­er the evil Gotthilf from her life and mind, just as many Holo­caust vic­tims did with Hitler.

Relat­ed Content:

Elise Coop­er lives in Los Ange­les and has writ­ten numer­ous nation­al secu­ri­ty arti­cles sup­port­ing Israel. She writes book reviews and Q and A’s for many dif­fer­ent out­lets includ­ing the Mil­i­tary Press. She has had the plea­sure to inter­view best­selling authors from many dif­fer­ent genres.

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