Wednesday 20 May 2020

#HistoricalFiction author, Irene Wittig, is sharing the inspiration behind her fabulous book — All That Lingers @irene_wittig

All that Lingers
By Irene Wittig

I was born in Rome in June of 1944, ten days after the city’s liberation by Allied troops. My Viennese mother had found safety in Italy, her mother in New York. Her Jewish father had reached France only to be arrested and then rescued and hidden. Her brother had obtained a visa to study music in New York, but when faced with deportation, joined the U.S. Army and became a Ritchie Boy (a native German speaker trained to translate and interrogate prisoners of war) only to die a week before returning home at the end of the war. His death remains unexplained. These were the stories that haunted us, but we were to hear many more—many far worse than ours—when we emigrated first to Argentina and then New York.

Crossing the equator by ship enroute from Argentina to New York 1951.

I listened and absorbed the stories of fellow refugees and people displaced by war. I wept for their losses and admired their resilience and came to understand that the past lingers for everyone. For some the cloud of memories is merely a light mist that glistens in the light of day. But for others, it is a heavy fog through which they struggle to find their way. Even refugees and immigrants who triumph over their experiences, will find that their success is often tinged by a longing for home and the lives they’d been forced to give up. To understand this is to have empathy for the scars that people carry whether from war, injustice, persecution or exploitation. These scars linger and pass down to the next generations until they become a cultural memory. But in my novel, as in the lives of so many people, hope and courage make resilience possible.

As I researched the Vienna my family left behind, I came to realize how little most of us know about the time before the war, and how a short civil war few remember set the stage for Hitler’s annexation of Austria.

My grandparents’ apartment building on Ungargasse was inspiration for Emma's (second) apartment in the novel.

In imagining what decisions ordinary people must have had to make, I began to write ALL THAT LINGERS. The novel is a tale told through the eyes of its three main characters, whose lives intertwine. Emma, as the main character, loses those most important to her. To find the strength to come to terms with her grief and her country’s betrayal, she realizes that she must answer needs greater than her own. Sophie, the orphaned daughter of Emma’s friend, returns to Vienna seeking answers about her lost history. Sophie’s uncle Friedrich, wryly aware of his moral failings, struggles with secrets he knows will throw all their lives into turmoil again.

This 1920 poster done as advertisement for the shop owned by my Viennese grandfather. It served as inspiration for the Grünbaum store in the novel where Emma works..

The Vienna street scene depicted on the cover of my novel is by the Austrian artist, Béla Husserl, who died in 1940 at the age of 42 in Austria’s Hartheim Concentration Camp, a victim of Nazi euthanization. He was the uncle of my childhood friend.

I’ve created my website  so that readers can explore the Vienna of my novel through links to a variety of videos, articles, and information on the city’s history, culture, and gastronomy.

All That Lingers
By Irene Wittig

In this novel of loss, courage, and resilience, we experience Vienna’s tumultuous years from Austria’s 1934 civil war, through World War II and postwar occupation, to independence. Three lives intertwine, bringing these extraordinary events to life. Emma fights to come to terms with grief and her country’s betrayal. Sophie seeks to reclaim her lost history, and Friedrich struggles with secrets that will throw all their lives into turmoil again.
Pick up your copy of
All That Lingers

Irene Wittig
I was born in liberated Rome to a Viennese mother and Italian father, lived in Argentina with my mother and new German step-father, and grew up in New York in a neighborhood of Holocaust survivors and fellow Europeans displaced by war.  I absorbed their memories of betrayals and courage, of sacrifice and difficult decisions, of strangers’ kindnesses and sheer luck. I understood that their gratitude for having found safety in America was tinged by longing for the lives they’d been forced to give up. The shadows of all they’d lost lingered, and drifted down to their children and grandchildren — and me. It is what inspired me to write ALL THAT LINGERS.

I am a member of the Historical Novel Society.

Connect with Irene: WebsiteGoodreads • Twitter.

No comments:

Post a Comment

See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx