Publisher: Doubleday Canada, Toronto
Publication Date: 1998
Binding: Trade Paperback
Book Condition: Fine
Signed: Signed by Author
Edition: First Edition
The author's first book. Signed (no inscription) on the title page. Bookseller Inventory # 000559
Synopsis: Drawing on imaginary outtakes from Riefenstahl's infamousfilm of the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, Dennis Bock weaves together the lives ofa family living in the shadow of history.
Olympia is the story of post-war German immigrants, as told by theirson Peter, born in the New World and raised in the sixties and seventies.
Though great figures and events of mid-century touch the lives of thisremarkable family, it is the private histories, the grand failings and smalltriumphs of Peter's family that remain etched in the reader's imagination. FromRuby's struggle to rise above her leukemia and her father's love of severeweather and killing tornadoes, to the saint who witnesses a miracle at thebottom of a drowned Spanish village.
Set against the backdrop of some of the most significant Olympic moments ofour times--the Nazis' stylish and sinister glorification of the Berlin Olympicsand the 1972 Munich hostage--taking in which 11 Israelis were murdered--Olympiaoffers a bold and refreshing perspective on the tragic relationship betweenGermans and Jews in this century.
Bock writes with insight and clarity in a breath-taking, beautiful prose thatsignals the debut of a brilliant new talent.
Review: Olympia tells the story of three generations quietly grappling with the emotional fallout of war. There are the grandparents, Lottie and Rudolph, who met while competing in the 1936 Berlin Olympics; their son and his wife, who emigrated from Germany after World War II; and the grandchildren--Peter, who narrates, and his sister Ruby, both Canadian-born children of the '70s. Into this portrait Bock skillfully splices imaginary outtakes from Leni Riefenstahl's film of the 1936 Olympics, The Olympiad. The result is a layered album of family stories and a moving meditation on the intersection of memory, identity, and the past.
Early on we discover that this family is Lutheran, not Jewish--and that Bock is tackling the uneasy question of what it means to be German in this century. He avoids generalizations about guilt or complicity in the war, aiming for something more delicate, more murky. "It seemed that everyone my parents knew back then had escaped to this country from that dark place ... after the war had ended," Peter explains. "But it took me until that summer to find out that there were things I hadn't been told, that there were secrets in my house."
Bock focuses with understated precision on the private moments of victory and defeat that make up the subjective history of a family: Ruby's fight against leukemia and her dream to succeed as an Olympic gymnast; a failed reunion between Peter's mother and the brother she hasn't seen since the end of the war; the deaths of the grandparents; a father and son's shared obsession with storms. Elliptical, nuanced, affirming, and sad, Olympia is a masterful examination of how a family embodies and survives its legacy. --Svenja Soldovieri
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