Days in the His­to­ry of Silence

Merethe Lind­strom; Anne Bruce, trans.
  • Review
By – February 12, 2014

This Nordic Coun­cil Lit­er­a­ture Prize Win­ner is an aus­tere­ly but ele­gant­ly writ­ten tale about secrets: the secrets wives keep from their hus­bands, the secrets par­ents keep from their chil­dren, and the reper­cus­sions of such secret-keep­ing. Eva and Simon are suc­cess­ful pro­fes­sion­als — he a physi­cian; she a librar­i­an. They have three grown daugh­ters who are privy to none of their par­ents’ secrets. Simon is a Jew­ish Holo­caust sur­vivor who spent the war years in a claus­tro­pho­bic space, sur­rounded by peo­ple — much like Anne Frank’s sit­u­a­tion. Sev­er­al times he want­ed to tell his chil­dren about his life, but Eva always found a rea­son to delay the rev­e­la­tion until it is too late and Simon has become aged and silent. Eva, in turn, had an ille­git­i­mate son whom she kept for sev­er­al months before giv­ing him away with­out a qualm. Simon and her daugh­ters know noth­ing of this. Eva, now elder­ly and almost alone — since Simon has stopped speak­ing and is in care — is con­stant­ly on the look­out for a man who might be her lost son.

The secrets kept by this cou­ple have become a gos­samer fab­ric that sep­a­rates them from each oth­er and from the world. The liveli­est char­ac­ter in the nov­el is a Lat­vian house­keep­er who is almost part of the fam­i­ly, until Eva dis­cov­ers an intol­er­a­ble secret that the house­keep­er is keep­ing and must let her go. A painful, yet inspir­ing nov­el, Days in the His­to­ry of Silence lingers in the reader’s mind and heart and does not let go.

Suri Boiangiu recent­ly semi-retired from the posi­tion of assis­tant prin­ci­pal at an all-girls high school. She has either been an admin­is­tra­tor or taught Eng­lish at Yeshiv­ah of Flat­bush and Magen David High School. She loves read­ing mod­ern fic­tion, or any fic­tion, and Ama­zon knows her by her first name.

Discussion Questions