As a young woman, Else made two promises to herself: to live life to the fullest, and to have a child with every man she loves. So here, too, are the stories of Fritz, Hans, and Erich—husbands, companions, lovers, and emissaries of a world in which men repeatedly prove themselves inadequate. Here are the stories of Peter, Bettina, and Angelika, Else’s three children. Here, too, is World War I, and then the roaring twenties—that prolonged orgy of concerts, plays, cabarets, and parties. Here are the ominous 1930s and the advent of Nazism, the dreadful racial laws, and, for Else, a Jew, exile in Bulgaria. But these dark years are also a time of experimentation, during which Else and her coevals explore alternative modes of interpersonal relationships. Here is a cast of vivid secondary characters—dreamers and intellectuals, artists and agitators. All these stories and their various players are held together by the forceful figure of a woman who is larger than life. But the indomitable Else will make a most human mistake when she tries to hide the real extent of the Nazi tragedy from her children, and instead of protecting them she brings disaster down upon her family.
Angelika Schrobsdorff was born in 1927 in Freiburg. She immigrated to Sofia in 1939 with her mother and returned to Germany in 1947. She married Claude Lanzmann, director of the landmark 1985 documentary Shoah, in 1971, and, after more than a decade in Paris and Munich, they moved to Israel in 1983. Today, Angelika Schrobsdorff lives in Berlin. She is the author of ten novels and two works of short stories.