In The Listener, a daughter receives a troubling gift: her mother’s stories of surviving World War II in Poland. During the Holocaust, Irene Oore’s mother escaped the death camps by concealing her Jewish identity. Instead, those years found her constantly on the run and on the verge of starvation, living a harrowing and peripatetic existence as she struggled to keep herself and her family alive.
Throughout the book, Oore reveals a certain ambivalence towards the gift bestowed upon her. The stories of fear, love, and constant hunger traumatised her as a child. Now, she shares these same stories with her own children, to keep the history alive.
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Genocide and Improvisation: Listener and Teller.
The creation of the following three paintings is described in the postlude of The Listener:
As a child, Irene Oore longed for imaginative stories filled with fairies and magic. Instead what she got from her mother Stefa was a ‘strange lullaby’ filled with tales of starvation, humiliation, hatred, and genocide. Interwoven with Stefa’s story is the author’s own, revealing her contradictory feelings as a child of Holocaust survivors and as an unwilling, captive listener to her mother’s traumatic memories. No one in either story is heroic or always brave, but they are resilient and brutally honest about some of the most painful and disturbing things humanity has ever experienced or passed on to one’s children.
Alexandria Constantinova Szeman, author of The Kommandant’s Mistress and Where Lightning Strikes: Poems on the Holocaust
As Irene processes her mother’s memory of the Holocaust…never-ending nightmares come crashing into the present. Irene’s duty, as the second generation, to preserve those experiences drives this touching and compelling narrative.
Daniel Blatman, author of The Death Marches