The House of Remembering and Forgetting

Written by Filip David
Review by Elisabeth Lenckos

In 1941, Albert Weisz’s parents, in a desperate attempt to save their children’s lives, throw him and his brother, Elijah, from a train headed for the death camps. Albert survives the fall, but his subsequent failure to find Elijah, who has inexplicably vanished, burdens him with a sense of guilt no amount of Holocaust memorials and conferences can lighten. But is it possible that the mystery of Elijah’s disappearance might be explained by ways other than the reasoning mind? As Albert seeks solace in Jewish mysticism and the Kabbalah, he experiences visions, in which he ‘sees’ his sibling—and his lost loved ones—as shining signifiers of the triumph of good over evil. But ultimately, the question of whether evil is a human trait, or whether the presence of malice in our world shows us that a dimension exists which eludes our understanding and harbors unspeakable, unfathomable wickedness, remains unsolved. Although Albert ‘finds’ Elijah, he is unable to stop the train that hurls him ever closer to extinction.

The House of Forgetting and Remembering is a tour de force reminiscent of Dostoyevsky; when Albert quotes from Zweig’s memoir, The World of Yesterday, he acknowledges that although our consciousness might wish to forget the horrors of our existence, it can find no respite in this world, where remembering the dead is a sacred duty.