Eva Salomon’s War

Two Ot­tawa au­thors dis­cuss their fe­male pro­ta­gan­ists — and the line be­tween fact and fic­tion

Ottawa Magazine - - BY THE BOOK - AU­THOR Eva Salomon’s War

Eva Salomon’s War is waged on sev­eral fronts: the pro­tag­o­nist es­capes the Holo­caust to Pales­tine. But then she flees again, this time from her rigidly or­tho­dox fa­ther, and then bat­tles eco­nomic may­hem and pur­sues a dan­ger­ous love. Bar­bara

Sib­bald talks to Gabriella Goliger, an award-win­ning Ot­tawa writer who once lived on a kib­butz, about this unique tale of fa­nati­cism and be­lief.

Q. What in­spired you to write Eva Salomon’s War?

A. This book is loosely based on the ex­pe­ri­ences of my mother’s sis­ter. Like the hero­ine, she was a young Jewish woman from Ger­many who went to Pales­tine in the 1930s — es­cap­ing Nazi Ger­many — fell in love with a Bri­tish po­lice­man and was ter­ror­ized by Jewish ex­trem­ists. Those are the bare bones of the story. My aunt died in 1968, so I was never able to ask her di­rectly, but [the ter­ror­ism] al­ways trou­bled me and I wanted to un­der­stand it bet­ter. At one point, I thought I’d try to write a me­moir, but I didn’t have enough to go on, and be­sides, I wanted the free­dom fic­tion gives to re­ally delve into the char­ac­ter, the events, the cir­cum­stances.

Q. In sev­enth grade in Ger­many, af­ter Eva is seg­re­gated and hu­mil­i­ated by the Nazis, she rejects be­lief in all its per­mu­ta­tions. What role does be­lief play in her life? A. She rejects ide­ol­ogy be­cause of the Nazis but also be­cause of her fa­ther, who is rigidly or­tho­dox. At the time, she’s very young and she’s de­pressed. She gets mud­dled about the dif­fer­ence be­tween value sys­tems, ide­ol­ogy, and hope and faith in gen­eral. She de­cides to be­lieve in noth­ing. [In Pales­tine, she] does start to be­lieve in love and a fu­ture for her­self. She even be­comes some­thing of a Zion­ist be­cause she can’t help be­ing drawn into the na­tional strug­gle and iden­tify with her peo­ple’s as­pi­ra­tions. That be­comes a con­flict in her re­la­tion­ship with Dun­can [the Bri­tish po­lice­man]. Q. Eva knows she can’t leave Pales­tine be­cause few na­tions were tak­ing Jews at the time, but her re­la­tion­ship with Dun­can is doomed be­cause Zion­ist as­pi­ra­tions were pit­ted against Bri­tish in­ter­ests. Yet she con­tin­ues. Why? A. She’s stuck in this re­la­tion­ship. She can’t imag­ine life with­out him, and that’s re­lated to her deep-down in­abil­ity to re­ally be­lieve in her­self. She be­comes de­pen­dent on this love. There’s also the con­text of the Sec­ond World War. The whole world is in con­flict and you don’t know what’s go­ing to hap­pen, so what’s the point in mak­ing long-term plans? Q. Be­lief is also a piv­otal force for Eva’s sis­ter and fa­ther. Would you char­ac­ter­ize this book as be­ing about be­lief? A. It’s a strong thread in the book. Ev­ery­one needs to be­lieve in things, but when does be­lief go over­board and be­come a rigid ide­ol­ogy? And how do you find that bal­ance? Q. Were you sur­prised by any­thing you found while re­search­ing? A. One of the things I was look­ing for were sto­ries sim­i­lar to my aunt’s. I found al­most noth­ing. It told me that it’s part of the past peo­ple don’t want to think or speak about — Jews ter­ror­iz­ing Jews dur­ing the strug­gle for Pales­tine. And that made me feel that what I was writ­ing was im­por­tant, which mo­ti­vated me. Q. How does one square Is­rael of then with Is­rael now? How does one rec­on­cile one’s dream of a Jewish state with the cost of an­other peo­ple’s suf­fer­ing? A. I think the Jews had no op­tion but to cre­ate a Jewish state at that time be­cause of the Holo­caust. And when I say “be­cause of the Holo­caust,” I mean that the enor­mity of it im­pressed on most Jews the need to have a coun­try of their own where they could de­fend them­selves and no longer have to re­ply on the hos­pi­tal­ity of oth­ers. I also rec­og­nize there was a huge tragedy that be­fell the Pales­tinian peo­ple. I wish it hadn’t hap­pened, and I wish there was a res­o­lu­tion. I still be­lieve two states is the only vi­able op­tion. The main­stream founders of Is­rael were prag­ma­tists and com­pro­mis­ers. To­day, the heirs of the peo­ple who were seen as ex­trem­ists back then have be­come main­stream. As Eva says at the end, there must be a bet­ter way.

“... it’s part of the past peo­ple don’t want to think or speak about — Jews ter­ror­iz­ing Jews dur­ing the strug­gle for Pales­tine.”

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