Synopses & Reviews
You might come back, because youre young, but I wont be coming back.”Marceline Loridans father to her, 1944
Marceline Loridan-Ivens was just fifteen when she was arrested by the Vichy governments militia, along with her father. At the internment camp of Drancy, France, her father prophecized that he would not come back, preparing her for the worst. On their arrival at the camps, they were separatedher father sent to Auschwitz, she to the neighboring camp of Birkenau. The three kilometers that separated them were an insurmountable distance, and yet her father managed to send her a small note, via an electrician in the camp. This simple sign of life gave Marceline a small hope of survival.
In But You Did Not Come Back, Marceline writes back to her father. The book is a letter to the man she would never know as an adult, to the person whose death overshadowed her whole life. As an advocate for Algerian independence and a documentary film-maker in the 1970s and 80s, working in China and Vietnam, Marceline ultimately found a vocation, but the all-consuming loss of her father never diminished in its intensity.
And now, as France and Europe in general faces growing anti-Semitism, Marceline feels pessimistic about the future. Her testimony is a haunting and challenging reminder of one of the worst crimes humanity has ever seen, and a deeply affecting personal story of a woman whose life was shattered and never totally rebuilt.
The year has barely started but already one of the most beautiful books of the year has been published. Short, dense, powerful, in a word: overwhelming, with a simplicity of expression and a skill for creating an image. . . . you will read it in one sitting.”Le Parisien
In this tormented time, this troubled period where the extreme right is showing its teeth all over Europe, Marceline Loridan-Ivens gives us a valuable lesson. . . . You read this with tears welling up in your eyes. . . . Ill say it again: read it. . . . [An] important book, [one] book youll never forget.”Challenges Magazine
A final, poignant address . . . In the pages of this book . . . words are spoken which have not been spoken before.”Le Monde des Livres
In literature, every so often, there comes a miracle, a book, a text, an author, a writing style, a way of recounting something, refusing any pathos and any exposition, that says things about life and death. Im evoking And You Didnt Come Back. . . . [A] brief and marvelous opus.”Le Magazine Littéraire
Her testimony is of an extraordinary force . . . The reasons for the wonderful success of this book in France are many. The book owes its reception in the first instance to the quality of the story. Marceline Loridan-Ivens, in spite of the darkness of the events described, avoids any kind of pathos. In radio and television interviews after publication, she has shown an extraordinary pugnacity . . . Now more than ever, it is necessary that we listen to the testimony of this survivor.”Le Figaro
Film-maker, writer, activist, Marceline Loridan-Ivens was deported at the age of 15, together with the father. She survived, but he did not. Seventy years after the liberation of Auschwitz, she takes up a dialogue with him, in And You Didnt Come Back . . . You can still very clearly see a little girl in the rebellious, cheerful, and slightly cloaked face of this petite woman of eighty-six.”Elle (France)
A precious story, seventy years after the liberation of Auschwitz. . . . [Loridan-Ivens] is speaking about the France of today, the country where [in January, after the Charlie Hebdo attacks] four people were killed in a grocery store because they were Jews. Her testimony is perhaps one of the last, and more than ever it deserves to be read and heard.”Les Inrockuptibles
The words of Marceline Loridan-Ivens . . . have an exceptional force. You have to read these words surrounded by a reverence which is appropriate, but in fact from the very first line, a silence descends, and nothing matters until you have read the last line, and no one could forget those words. You might think that after Primo Levi, Robert Antelme, Claude Lanzmann, there was nothing left to say. But Marceline Loridan-Ivens proves the opposite. Her book gets its force from her anger and her pain, which are still completely intact, even amplified by this time that doesnt pass.”Le Journal du Dimanche
A dry, tough, violent book . . . The era of the first-hand witnesses of victims of this genocide is drawing to a close and this testimony, which is absolutely singular, will stun and chill the reader.”Le Banquet des Mots
About the Author
was born in 1928. She has worked as an actress, a screenwriter, and a director. She directed The Birch-Tree Meadow
in 2003, starring Anouk Aimée, as well as several documentaries with Joris Ivens.
Sandra Smith is the translator of Suite Française and eleven other novels by Irène Némirovsky, as well as a new translation of Camuss LEtranger. She has been awarded the French-American Florence Gould Foundation Translation Prize and the PEN Translation Prize. She lives in New York.