18 December 08 | Chad W. Post

We’re all about Melville House . . . in addition to the forthcoming post about Alejandro Zambra’s Bonsai, we also just posted this new review of Kevin Vennemann’s Close to Jedenew another book from Melville House’s Contemporary Art of the Novella Series.

This review was written by Douglas Carlsen, who is the director of Whitman College Bookstore and has been making his living from books in one way or another since 1970. He’s also an actor, director, poet, short story writer, and co-owner of Willowbend Farm.

His very thoughtful review begins:

“We do not breathe.”

So begins Kevin Vennemann’s Close to Jedenew. The story of an event. A day in July, 1941. A moment between evening and night. Between “what was” and “nothing remaining.” A survivor’s tale—of movement from the “we” to the “I.” A story of loss—“in the evening we sit, nine in number, at night we are six”—until no one but the narrator remains.

Living just outside the small farming community of Jedenew in eastern Poland, a Jewish family

“[sits] behind the house in the midsummer evening sun on the narrow wooden dock that leads out into the pond behind the house, [they] sit and lie and swim in the sun and sit together reading and drink the first and last summer punch of the year.”

The first and last summer punch. The last evening. The tale of a family’s personal Kristallnacht, and following holocaust, at the hands of longtime neighbors and friends—

“On this evening, this last evening, it is Antonina who says softly: They’re coming.” For hours the Jedenew farmers sit in the woods behind the house and drink and laugh and sing and play, and only after hours go by do we finally hear them coming out of the woods, singing at the top of their voices and marching over the ridge into the garden.

What happens in the twilight we are never told.

The rest can be found by clicking here.

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