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Fugitive Pieces Paperback – Mar 3 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Emblem Editions (March 3 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0771058829
  • ISBN-13: 978-0771058820
  • Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 2.1 x 21.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 318 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #26,437 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Amazon

Anne Michaels, an accomplished poet, has already published two collections of poetry in her native Canada. She turns her hand to fiction in an impressive debut novel, Fugitive Pieces. This is the story of Jakob Beer, a Polish Jew, translator, and poet who, as a child, witnessed his family's slaughter at the hands of the Nazis. Beer himself was found and smuggled out of Poland by Athos Roussos, a Greek archaeologist who carried him back to Greece and kept him there in precarious safety. After the war they emigrated together to Canada. Jakob's story is told through diaries discovered by Ben, a young man whose parents are Holocaust survivors and who is a vessel for their memories just as Jakob is the bearer of his own.

Fugitive Pieces is a book about memory and forgetting. How is it possible to love the living when our hearts are still with the dead? What is the difference between what historical fact tells us and what we remember? More than that, the novel is a meditation on the power of language to free our souls and allow us to find our own destinies. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Searing the mind with stunning images while seducing with radiant prose, this brilliant first novel is a story of damaged lives and the indestructibility of the human spirit. It speaks about loss, about the urgency, pain and ultimate healing power of memory, and about the redemptive power of love. Its characters come to understand the implacability of the natural world, the impartial perfection of science, the heartbreak of history. The narrative is permeated with insights about language itself, its power to distort and destroy meaning, and to restore it again to those with stalwart hearts. During WWII, when Jakob Beer is seven, his parents are murdered by Nazi soldiers who invade their Polish village, and his beloved, musically talented 15-year-old sister, Bella, is abducted. Fleeing from the blood-drenched scene, he is magically saved by Greek geologist Athos Roussos, who secretly transports the traumatized boy to his home on the island of Zakynthos, where they live through the Nazi occupation, suffering privations but escaping the atrocities that decimate Greece's Jewish community. Jakob is haunted by the moment of his parents' death?the burst door, buttons spilling out of a saucer onto the floor, darkness?and his spirit remains sorrowfully linked with that of his lost sister, whose fate anguishes him. But he travels in his imagination to the places that Athos describes and the books that this kindly scholar provides. At war's end, Athos accepts a university post in Toronto, and Jakob begins a new life. Yet he remains disoriented and unmoored, trapped by memory and grief, "a damaged chromosome"?the more so after Athos' premature death. By then, however, Jakob has discovered his metier as poet and essayist and strives to find in language the meaning of his life. The miraculous gift of a soul mate in his second wife, "voluptuous scholar" Michaela, comes late for Jakob. Their marriage is brief, and ends in stunning irony. The second part of the novel concerns a younger man, Ben, who is profoundly influenced by Jakob's poetry and goes to the Greek island of Idhra in an attempt to find the writer's notebooks after his death. Ben is another damaged soul. The son of Holocaust survivors, he carries their sorrow like a heavy stone. Emotionally maimed and fearful, Ben feels that he was "born into absence... a hiding place, rotted out by grief." Yet when it seems that the past will go on wreaking destruction, Jakob's writings, and the example of his life, show Ben the way to acknowledge love and to accept a future. These intertwined stories are related by Canadian poet Michaels in incandescent prose, dark and tender and poetically lyrical. A bestseller in Canada, the novel will make readers yearn to share it with others, to read sentences and entire passages aloud, to debate its message, to acknowledge its wisdom. 35,000 first printing.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By alexa on Dec 1 2003
Format: Audio CD
I am a teenager and I understand this book so I'm sure the people that call it boring or "flawed" didn't really think about it very hard. I have heard many accusations that this book was flawed or sloppy in the plotline. First of all, how can a book, especially one so poetic and deep, be flawed? It's like saying Picasso made a mistake in one of his paintings. If you see the plotline as being broken then you missed the point of the book. It takes you beyond the story, or at least it is supposed to in my opinion. The poetry of the book is a window to the deep meanings of the book. For example, the relationship between death and memory. The characters and storyline are only there to display the meaning. If you read this book, it is for the meaning, not the story, though the story is very moving. The best thing about Fugitive Pieces is that it is NOT TYPICAL. It's creative, emotional, and original; the ingredients for a true classic.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Ben Orlove on Sept. 2 2001
Format: Paperback
When poets try to write novels, they sometimes fail, since the ability of poets to find deep meaning in words and phrases cannot always be sustained for greater length of novels. When they succeed, the result can be utterly engrossing. Michaels writes of a possible situation--a Greek poet who rescues Jakob, a Jewish boy, hiding in Poland during World War II after his parents and older sister were taken by the Nazis--and a possible place, the Greek poet's island home where the boy grows up and the poet grows old. Jakob himself becomes a poet, and moves to Canada. The book traces a second story as well, one of Jakob's readers, who meets Jakob and eventually travels to the island.
Woven into the story are reflections on memory and knowledge: and many concrete references. Perhaps that is the great link between poetry and the novel, that both can turn to concrete things--lemons on a Greek island, a river in Canada in flood, objects that are real in themselves, that can be metaphors, and that reveal the fragile precious quality of human existence and human connection. And this concreteness, like the immediacy of Jakob and the poet and the other characters, has remained with me since I've read this book, making me in some small but significant way more tender and appreciative, more alive.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Teddy on June 12 2008
Format: Audio CD
The book opens with Jakob Beer as a seven-year-old child hiding in the bog in order to escape the Nazis. His family did not escape and were killed. Jakob was found by Athos Roussos, who smuggled him out of Poland and brought young Jakob to live with him in Greece. After the war, they immigrated to Canada. Jakob later becomes a poet and translator. The story is told by Ben, who discovered Jakob's diaries, a man whose parents are Holocaust survivors.

This is primarily a story about memory, love, and loss. Anne Michaels is an accomplished poet, which is really demonstrated in this, her first novel. Every sentence is carefully crafted poetry. Her descriptions have great depth and make the reader see the great beauty and great horror.

This book is not a fast read. I found myself having to stop and ponder a lot. This was both negative and positive for me. I am not a huge fan of poetry, so in that sense this book was too lyrical for me. However, by being forced to stop and ponder I found some wonderful pearls.

I saw the movie version, which is what prompted me to read this book. The movie was a gem and I loved it. Sometimes it takes an overly lyrical novel to make a great film. It is very rare that I like the film version better than a book, but this is one of those cases.

I'm glad I read the book. I got to explore the characters more deeply. Now I want to see the movie again.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Chris Bentley on Jan. 20 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a complex and poetic novel, about a young boy, who witnesses the murder of his Jewish family by Nazi's during the holocaust. He is taken to Zakynthos by a Greek geologist. The boy, Jakob, then tells his story through diary entries. The pair migrate to Toronto, and his life story is told. The story is then continued past Jakob's death by Ben, a man so inspired by the philosophy of Jakob, that he journeys to Greece to recount the footsteps of his idol. The author, Anne Michaels is a poet - this is her first attempt at a novel - and consequently the book is full of poetic similes and metaphors. The style of the book is also quite spiritual, as the main character is so haunted by his past that he imagines his dead sister with him, as he remembers her when they were together. This past keeps interrupting his present, as though Jakob is reluctant to let go of it, and live his own life. This book is very calm, even the horrific murder of Jakob's parents and sister is written about in a dream like fashion. It also has a gentle, almost anti climatic ending. This is one of my criticisms of the book, as it seems to have little in the way of a conclusion. The style means that Fugitive Pieces is quite a difficult book to read, and you have to concentrate on the book's story to fully understand and appreciate it. However the story does come through with perseverance, and the novel comes together at the end.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Clyo Beck on Feb. 1 2009
Format: Paperback
Anne Michael's beautifully written Fugitive Pieces is in a class all by itself. I drank it in, like an elixir.

My husband, who pursued a doctorate in philosophy and cannot be bothered reading most fiction, picked it up afterwards, finished it, and declared it exceptional.

Somehow Michaels has managed to write page-turning prose that has the flavor of poetry. This author is, indeed, an artist.
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