This was very thin, but emotionally dense book: novel “My name is Marīte” written by Lithuanian author Alvids Šlepiks. They say that this novel is one of the most powerful works of the new authors’ generation in the last years. It has received valuable awards, had many editions and is extensively translated in neighbouring countries.
“It is the ending of the 2nd World War. German army is retreating and Red army is going further into the Western Europe. Prussia is starving, but new women and girls are in constant fear of violence. Also in the family of little Renāte all things had gone wrong… The oldest brother is going to Lithuania – to work and beg for food so that he could bring it to his starving family. One day, also Renāte, accidentally, gets to Lithuania. The only phrase she knows in lithuanian: “My name is Marīte…””
It’s a novel about so called “Wolf children” (German: Wolfskinder) – generation of German children that were seeking for a refuge in Lithuania during the 2nd World War. Novel is based on real facts and stories that author had collected from survivors. Although, in my opinion, the latvian translation is quite dry and sharp, nevertheless, without verbiage, story is very pure and it truly highlights the main, real and very cruel things. Along with the deadly cold winter, the cruelty and the violence that threatens the victims, the novel reveals love, compassion and deep memories.
Let me give you some quotes from the book for the insight:
- “Oh, these buds – they are all scraped off from the lower branches. They are so tasty! Children, like bunnies, long time ago have nibbled them off, breaking all the branches they were able to reach.”
- “[…], because cats too – are meat now.”
- “Brigitte, Grethe and aunt Lote are hunting for rats in ruins. […] Aunt Lote is flaying the rat. […] ‘What are those animals, aunt Lote?’ ‘Rabbits…’”
- “[…], and how will I recognize him when I die? There will be so many dead, all heaven full, so many corpses now, […].”
- “People are walking, bargaining, […] they want only one thing in return for their family relics and treasures – food, they only want to live, to survive.”
- “Sees a woman crying and begging the farmer to buy the child of hers, she has four more at home, the child is good, hard-working – she asks potatoes in return.”
- “On the roadside – frozen corpses, further from the road some people are sitting on the logs. The children are asking – why are they doing that, what they are waiting for? Lota explains – they are dead, they haven’t been able to walk, sat down and froze…”
- “Wolves have begun to not be afraid of people – they live on frozen corpses. Roadsides are full of dead bodies.”
I liked the book. It showed me the events of WW2 from a different perspective – from the perspective of the children.