Thursday, April 16, 2009

"Sonata for Miriam"

Linda Olsson was born in Stockholm, Sweden. In 2003, she won the Sunday Star-Times Short Story Competition. She has lived in Kenya, Singapore, Britain, and Japan before settling in Auckland, New Zealand, where she lives today. Her debut novel Astrid & Veronika was published in 2007.

She applied “Page 69 Test” to her latest novel, Sonata for Miriam, and reported the following:
Not much of a page, perhaps, this page 69. Still, in a sense it is the pivotal chapter in the novel.

Firstly, the opening sentence: ‘The silence had been disturbed.’ My working title for this novel was The Consequence of Silence (it has been published under this title in some countries). Chapter 13 which begins on page 69 is the start of the attempts at breaking the stifling silence that has surrounded the main character, Adam Anker, all his life.

Two of the main characters are mentioned on page 69: Adam Anker, the narrator, and his daughter Miriam, Mimi. After a year of paralyzing grief after losing Mimi, Adam has just returned from a first social outing with friends on Waiheke Island in New Zealand, where he lives. Tired and a little drunk he ponders on a meeting with an elderly Holocaust survivor whom he has seen a few days earlier, Clara Fried.

He had intended to contact her after happening to spot a small display at the War Memorial Museum in Auckland. Here, the old woman had posted information about her lost brother, Adam Lipski. The note described how, after watching him leave the family home in Krakow in 1940, supposedly headed for safety in Lithuania, she had never seen him again.

Adam Anker was born Adam Lipski and the display triggered intense interest and strong feelings. He has grown up with little or no information about his Polish background and here came to stumble on what to him seemed like a possible lead into his past.

He headed home that day excited and intent on pursuing this lead. But an evening phone call put an end not just to his exploration, but to his life. He lost his daughter Miriam.

A year has passed and he is finally able to resume his research, and perhaps his life. He has again looked up the number to Clara Fried, arranged to meet her and he is finally ready to begin the journey into his past.

From Page 69:

The silence had been disturbed.

The following week I tried to focus on my work, spending most days in the studio. But I found myself interrupted by thoughts of my meeting with Clara Fried. On the Saturday I returned home in the late afternoon, my ears burning from exposure to the sun. The weekends were still harder than the weekdays. There was no logical reason for them to be, my life was not directed by the days of the week. But somehow it seemed easier to keep up pretences of a kind of normality during the week. Earlier that day I had been sitting at the table on the verandah with my morning coffee when the thought of another day alone in the house was unbearable. At the spur of the moment I called Antony and Vanessa. Friends since we became neighbours when I first arrived in the country, they were sensitive and kind, asked no questions, expected no answers. During the past year they had kept a thoughtful distance, but always making me feel that they were there for me, on my terms. They had no children – I had never known why - and Mimi had been theirs, too, Their grief had been double: sharing mine, while struggling with their own.

They had persisted with their invitations to lunches, dinners and other occasions. Although I seldom accepted, I was always asked. Earlier that week they had called to suggest lunch with friends visiting from Sweden. The wife worked in film, and they thought I might enjoy meeting them. In my

Read an excerpt from Sonata for Miriam, and learn more about the book and author at Linda Olsson's website.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue