La Lettera di Gertrud
It's a book about discoveries. Discovery of origins; maybe for a genetist like Martin Brenner this unexpected news is more devastating than for other people. Who knows if this one can be an answer at this complicated story.
Sometimes discovering the origin for a person is a relief, for understanding better the past, for living with peace the present and the future, accepting what it was; past behaviors, discriminations of family members or neighbors can be understood rationally.
I don't think that a secret, revealed, is a quiet process for the person involved and for his/her soul but surely it set free the person from a past of secrets - they kill entire existences and families - and lies - they're horrible - Not only, but there is a sensation of freedom and possibility of choices.
Said this, the story lived by the protagonist of this book, Martin Brenner is completely different.
There is a revelation but this shocking discovery will cause interior and exterior difficulties. Why? Because Martin doesn't accept his new reality.
Martin at the beginning of the story is portrayed as a successful and happy man. He is in his early 50s, he has a wife that he simply adores, Cristina, and a daughter, Sara.
He is the successful director of a center where people asks for analysis for understanding if they are the real parents of their children or for discovering if they will become sick of certain illness.
His life is perfect.
When his mother, Maria, dies, Martin doesn't feel real sadness. They didn't have a good connection and all their existence was characterized by something not-said. The distance created by her mother built a sort of wall: he has always understood that his mother had erected that wall; he hadn't never understood the reason and of course he didn't live well his relationship with maybe the most important person of our existence.
This "feeling," not feeling anything strong for the departure of his mother departure puzzles him, because Maria is his mother.
One day Martin is reached by an attorney, old friend of his mother. This man has in possession a letter for him; from his mother.
Her real name was Gertrud and she was a Jewish. Martin is a jewish.
Martin doesn't jump from the chair for the joy and happiness of this news: jewish are prestigious people. No: it happens the opposite and this opposite will bring him to his ruin.
It starts for Martin a complicated season for understanding who realistically he is. He doesn't want to be classified as a jewish, being an atheist, and he doesn't want to live his existence as a Jewish. He wants to continue to eat ham, and he wants to continue to live his life as he did before to discovering this story. But: is it possible?
New medias won't help him either. Also during a protest, one of his gesture is misunderstood by everyone, jewish and protestants and attacked.
That days, Martin thinking that it is better to keep the secret (this secret will ruin his family as you will read later) starts to read wagons of books about people who discovered later in their life that they were jewish.
You will read that some people were absolutely furious with their parents, other ones, simply tried to understand, releasing later books about the topic.
A Jewish is considered Jewish if the mother is Jewish; Martin, simply, can't accept it. He doesn't want to change his status. No one can let him changes this idea.
Martin knows that Jewish people don't have particular signs in their DNA for saying: that one is a Jewish for his/her DNA. Same is for other ethnic groups, after all.
It's this "unwanting inclusion" in a group, in an ethnic group, that Martin doesn't want. Martin wants to stay free.
Simon, a Jewish man working in his laboratory is his best friend, but not because he is jewish, but because they have always been friends, and Martin refuses the idea of searching for friendship because a person is part of an ethnic group. And this one is an intelligent treat of Martin.
Nothing give consolation to Martin. His researches are incredibles. I understood the history of Jewish people, discovering that I had a great ignorance on the topic reading this book.
A story, the one of Jewish people plenty of misunderstanding, a story, the one of this group, that has known an escalation of violence with the arrival of Jesus in the scene.
Jesus was a Jewish, but he was a revolutionary man and created a new religion. This new religion started to be known, and Jewish after the birth of Catholicism were always more discriminated.
In my mind I thought that Jewish people loved to live without intromissions because part of their character, while it was the opposite. Discriminations Crusades, then the Holocaust, have been created also by catholics like all the possible distortions regarding Jewish people.
When a damage is so profound, of course a group will protect itself from external aggressions, in many different ways.
What it is shocking in the story by Larsson is this fear: this fear of being Jewish.
When Martin will reveal that he is a Jewish it will happen this world and the other and no one, jewish, protestants, will see in him a person with a good integrity, but just someone who doesn't want to accept the reality. Jewish will be offended by his behavior, nazists will try their best for damaging him and his family. Martin will remain at the end of this story completely isolated, protected by no one, left by his wife, hated also by his beloved daughterisolated by Jewish people at every level and his desire, of being simply Martin won't be taken in consideration. He is a lost soul.
Martin's feelings after all are the one of a shocked person grown up into a big lie: that he was a Christian. He thought that he was a Christian for more than 50 years; this revelation changed, completely changed the perspective of his existence. Not only: in this book being Jewish is seeing negatively; I read of a massacre in a sinagogue, acts of vandalisms perpetrated at Martin's daughter, because the daughter of a Jewish; Martin lived nightmares, but reality can also be pretty different.
There is in fact to add that borning Jewish is a priviledge. Jewish, as admits Larsson in the book are not born for being God's Believer, but for increasing their knowledge, for studying, for bettering through books their culture without forgetting the other ones. Jewish people are erudite, fascinating, creative; the most important discoveries were made by Jewish; personally in our extended family we had a jewish member once and when things changed it was as a bright, and lucky star disappeared to the horizon. He hasn't never been forgotten.
It's horrible to classify people for their creeds, for their God, for their status, for their existence, for their sexual orientation. Once I remember that, during a confession, when I confessed to my priest Don Marino that I didn't know anymore who was God, Don Marino intelligently let me understand something: "That being born here we call Him God; if we would have been born in India, God would have been Buddha, if in Asia, Allah and so on." To me it meant opening my mind in many other directions, where possible. God is God, and there are no differences.
Martin to my point of view paid a lot because he didn't tell the truth: he started private crusades, he tried to define his territory, losing his territory, and his loving family, because he wanted to overprotect them because of this news; his friends, his workplace, his house. He had the terror of the repercussion of being a Jewish, when his chief was a Jewish, his friend a Jewish and they lived peacefully.
Martin created by himself this discrimination in big part thanks to his not-acceptance and no one was in grade of helping him because he refused every sorta of dialogue. There are Jewish completely atheists and they live well.
A big role was played by Maria/Gertrud: realistically this woman set free his son Martin? To my point of view no, but caused a lot of mess in his existence with this revelation, a symptom, clearly that maybe she didn't know him too well.
This book is extraordinary; it is erudite, you will learn a lot about DNA, RNA, new methods for understanding our genetical past, but also, as said before the entire story of the birth of Jewish, and their history, plenty of fascination and sufferance; it is a book that describes pretty well the society where we live in; talk shows, fury, chaos; a society lost in words, without any conclusion and any kind of solution at the problems that there are in the world and close to us.
I thank Iperborea for the physical copy of this book.
Anna Maria Polidori