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Victoria Redel on The Border of Truth at Inside ontheinside.info

Victoria Redel on The Border of Truth

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Victoria Redel: My latest novel is called The Border of Truth. In my work, short stories and poems, the whole question of first generation, or the question of what’s the methodology of what you bring with you when you have family that comes from another place or from a place of war, it’s an interest of mine. In this novel, I roughly took the passage my father had made from the bombing of Brussels through France to Spain and then to Lisbon and on a ship called the Quanza, which was an actual ship that came across, and his parents and some other passengers were refused entry into New York, and again their transit visas were denied in Mexico and they were being sent back to Europe.

So my novel starts with a young boy who’s 17, at the point when the ship is being loaded with coal in Virginia to be sent back to Europe, and he begins his obsessive sequence of letter writing to Eleanor Roosevelt because he’s heard that she could be helpful and because other people are contacting whoever they can contact. He’s a boy, he’s very American-drawn in his fascination. He wants to tell her about his adventures, he sees the whole thing as a really fabulous adventure, getting out of Brussels. In the beginning of the novel he says ‘I know this sounds terrible to say but when the Germans bombed, I was rooting for the Germans so I could get the hell out of there’. Basically what he’s saying—he’s a kid, you know. Brussels is provincial and he wants to get to Paris and he wants to get to America and he sees himself as indestructible, and he embraces the adventure of it. He also has something he wants to confess eventually, a shame that he wants to confess.

And the other piece of the novel is contemporary, it’s 2003 and there’s a woman who’s 40, a single woman who wants to adopt a child, and in the process of adoption they start saying ‘what’s your family’s story?’ and she realizes that she knows nothing of her father’s history, that he’s been a wall of silence. It’s not a secret in the book, you quickly realize the old man was that young boy and the kind of carelessness and aggressiveness of that kid has become a kind of silent wall, as it is for a lot of survivors or refugees. And she becomes a reluctant detetective of her father’s story and very quickly she stumbles on something that would indicate that the one thing he’s told her, which is that he was on the ship with his mother, is untrue. She wants to refuse to believe that it could be untrue.

So the novel is sort of an investigation into what are the secretes inside of a family, not just a refugee family but any family, and what does it matter if you know them, how does it change if you know what your parents have done, can you love people and not judge their secrets—which I think ultimately is yes.

- Photo by Claudio Papapietro for http://ontheinside.info.

See Victoria Redel’s profile and favorite NY places at http://ontheinside.info/victoria-redel.

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