Synopses & Reviews
The librarian walks the streets of her beloved Paris. An old lady with a limp and an accent, she is invisible to most. Certainly no one recognizes her as the warrior and revolutionary she was, when again and again she slipped into the Jewish ghetto of German-occupied Vilnius to carry food, clothes, medicine, money, and counterfeit documents to its prisoners. Often she left with letters to deliver, manuscripts to hide, and even sedated children swathed in sacks. In 1944 she was captured by the Gestapo, tortured for twelve days, and deported to Dachau.
Through Epistolophilia, Julija and#352;ukys follows the letters and journalsand#8212;the and#8220;life-writingand#8221;and#8212;of this woman, Ona and#352;imaitand#279; (1894and#8211;1970). A treasurer of words, and#352;imaitand#279; carefully collected, preserved, and archived the written record of her life, including thousands of letters, scores of diaries, articles, and press clippings. Journeying through these words, and#352;ukys negotiates with the ghost of and#352;imaitand#279;, beckoning back to life this quiet and worldly heroineand#8212;a giant of Holocaust history (one of Yad Vashemand#8217;s honored and#8220;Righteous Among the Nationsand#8221;) and yet so little known. The result is at once a mediated self-portrait and a measured perspective on a remarkable life. It reveals the meaning of life-writing, how women write their lives publicly and privately, and how their words attach themand#8212;and usand#8212;to life.
“In Silence Is Death: The Life and Work of Tahar Djaout one gets a sense of the man, the artist, and Ms. Šukys herself. With a lyrical nomadism, she combines her study with detours into memoir and even fiction on themes of bones and memory.”—Nina C. Ayoub, The Chronicle of Higher Education Chronicle of Higher Education
"Sukys draws liberally from thousands of pages of correspondence and numerous diaries to create a portrait of a deeply thoughtful woman trying to make sense of history and her own life by putting it all to paper. Also of Lithuanian descent, Sukys's own meditations on the power of letters and writing make this a powerful testament to the confluence of history and individual lives and passions."and#8212;Publishers Weekly
"Epistolophilia is not a typical biography, and and#352;imaitand#279; was not a typical World War II hero. For readers looking for an unconventional account of the World War II and post-war eras, as well as those interested in women's life writing, Epistolophilia is a nuanced and compelling work."and#8212;ForeWord Reviews
"Sukys is to be commended for providing us with this testament and story of a little known hero. . . . The writing is done with care and precision bringing to life a woman who we might have otherwise overlooked."and#8212;Jerusalem Post
On May 26, 1993, the Algerian novelist and poet Tahar Djaout was gunned down in an attack attributed to Islamist extremists. An outspoken critic of the extremism roiling his nation, Djaout, in his death, became a powerful symbol for the “murder of Algerian culture,” as scores of journalists, writers, and scholars were targeted in a swelling wave of violence. The author of twelve books of fiction and poetry, Djaout was murdered at a critical point in his career, just as his literary voice was maturing. His death was a great loss not only for Algeria and for Francophone literature but also for world literature. Rage at the news of his slaying was explosive but did nothing to quell the increasing bloodshed. Silence Is Death considers the life and work of Djaout in light of his murder and his role in the conflict that raged between Islamist terrorist cells and Algerias military regime in the 1990s. The result is an innovative meditation on death, authorship, and the political role of intellectuals. By collapsing the genres of history, biography, personal memoir, fiction, and cultural analysis, Julija Šukys investigates notions of authorial neutrality as well as the relationship between reader and writer in life and in death. Her work offers a view of reading as an encounter across time and place and opens the possibility of a relationship between different cultures under peaceful terms.
About the Author
Julija Šukys is an assistant professor of creative writing at the Department of English at the University of Missouri-Columbia. She is the author of Epistolophilia: Writing the Life of Ona Šimaitė (Nebraska, 2012).