I think the hardest part for me is getting that first draft finished. A blank page can look very intimidating!
Synopsis of The Kaminsky Cure?
An Aryan parson and his Jewish wife Gabi (who was converted to Christianity by her best school friend) try to survive the Third Reich in a small mountain village in Austria. They have four children, the youngest of whom is the narrator of the story. Their father is ambivalent - he's a patriot, but how can he go along with Hitler's policies towards the Jews? He wants Germany to win the war, but he doesn't want his children to be inferior 'half-breeds.' Gabi, a trained nurse in the First World War, is the only real protector of her children, whose place in Nazi Germany is to be only hewers of wood and drawers of water. What's more, she and her husband don't really like each other any more, and the two oldest children are infected by Nazi propaganda, so that one wants desperately to join the Hitler Youth, while the other is ashamed of her 'Jewish taint'. Strangely in this situation, there is dark comedy as well as heart-rending tragedy as the Nazi noose slowly tightens round the family's, and especially the mother's, neck. (The Kaminsky cure is a recommendation from one of the anti-Nazi teachers the mother persuades to teach the children when they are barred from school - when you want to scream or rant, take a mouthful of water and don't swallow it until the urge has passed. -Gabi doesn't always follow this course.) One by one, friends drop away, Gabi's relatives disappear, and the Nazis' 'Final Solution' remorselessly approaches her. All this is seen through the eyes of the narrator, whose child-like innocence is balanced by an adult's detached ironic attitude. Finally the dreaded knock comes on the door - Gabi is to be deported 'to the east.' Knowing full well what that means,it is the eldest son, the would-be Hitler Youth, who devises a plan for her escape by faking suicide in the nearby lake. While the younger children believe she is dead, and, for all the others know, she may well be, she is actually surviving - just - nursing wounded prisoners of war in a city that eventually falls to the Americans. The war ends, Gabi returns to her starving family in an American officer's Jeep. But peace may be almost as difficult for them all as was the war. .
What inspired me to write this book?
Years ago I came to know people to whom all this happened.I have invented all the characters, but the events in the novel have exact historical counterparts.I always wanted to write the story, but it was not until recently that I felt able to do it. Another incentive was that almost nothing is written about the fate of mixed Aryan-Jewish families during the Nazi period.
How many hours do I spend writing a day?
It depends. Sometimes other things take up my time. But when I am free and know what I want to write, it can be twelve hours a day.Sometimes I say to my wife at ten in the evening 'Now let's have the rest of the day off, what's left of it.' Then ten minutes later I say, 'Oh, I just want to make a note,' And then I'm gone till after midnight. It's hard being married to a writer.
My top five books? I guess you mean the top five books I've ever read, not the top five of the ones I've written? (No, they're not the same!) That's hard, the list changes from day to day, year to year. Restricting myself to novels, I guess fairly stable members of the list would be Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary and Pride and Prejudice. Proust's A la Recherche...and Dickens' Bleak House would be strong contenders. That makes five, but as I said, the last two places at least on the list can be filled differently according to what I've read recently. The reason I haven't mentioned any contemporary writers? It's too soon to tell.
What am I working on now?
I'm revising a novel called Chinese Spring. I've spent many years in Asia (and still do spend time there), especially in Hong Kong, where I taught philosophy, and several of my novels are set in Asia. This novel is set in Hong Kong and Mainland China during the single year from June 4 2012 to June 4 2013 (with a prologue and epilogue for earlier and later years). As you will probably have guessed, that means the background is the fall-out of the Tiananmen massacre of June 4 1989. The story concerns democracy activists in both mainland China and Hong Kong, although I wouldn't describe it as a political novel. It's about people's complex lives in a particular context at a particular time. That's nearly finished. Apart from that, I've started a sequel to The Kaminsky Cure, which takes the characters, or some of them, to America and follows their diverse fates there.
Title: The Kaminsky Cure
Author: Christopher New
Genre: Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction
The Kaminsky Cure is a poignant yet comedic novel of a half Jewish/half Christian family caught up in the machinery of Hitler’s final solution. The matriarch, Gabi, was born Jewish but converted to Christianity in her teens. The patriarch, Willibald, is a Lutheran minister who, on one hand is an admirer of Hitler, but on the other hand, the conflicted father of children who are half-Jewish. Mindful and resentful of her husband’s ambivalence, Gabi is determined to make sure her children are educated, devising schemes to keep them in school even after learning that any child less than 100% Aryan will eventually be kept from completing education. She even hires tutors who are willing to teach half-Jewish children and in this way comes to hire Fraulein Kaminsky who shows Gabi how to cure her frustration and rage: to keep her mouth filled with water until the urge to scream or rant has passed.
Christopher New was born in England and was educated at Oxford and Princeton Universities. Philosopher as well as novelist, he founded the Philosophy Department in Hong Kong University, where he taught for many years whilst writing The China Coast Trilogy (Shanghai, The Chinese Box and A Change of Flag) and Goodbye Chairman Mao, as well as The Philosophy of Literature. He now divides his time between Europe and Asia and has written novels set in India (The Road to Maridur), Egypt (A Small Place in the Desert) and Europe (The Kaminsky Cure). His books have been translated into Chinese, German, Italian, Japanese and Portuguese. His latest novel, Gage Street Courtesan, appeared in March 2013.
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