Summer of Sorrow
Number of pages
L’été chagrin is a remarkable first novel that uses the voice of a 10-year-old boy to tell his story of the fateful summer in France of 1942. Henri Husetowski deftly intertwines a child’s world with the horrifying events of war in this powerful and poignant novel.
With humor and candor and in his child’s language, David, a “former Jew,” tells what happened to him when being any part Jewish became dangerous. When his Polish father dies falling off a crane, David’s mother, who will do anything to protect him from his fate, seizes the opportunity to change their identity. She remarries, leaving behind her Jewish-Polish name for the good traditional French name of Duval. David is baptized, becomes a Christian, and hopes the transformation is complete. He waits anxiously for his foreskin to grow back, while his mother asks about a reverse circumcision. Despite his new identity, he continues to hang around with his best friend Yacov, a dirty, overweight Jewish boy, even though he feels slightly ashamed of him. There are others in his life who confuse him and confound his mother’s desire to have him seen as Christian: Madame Souslovska, with her green slippers; Fetnât, a Muslim man from Senegal; Clopinette, a drunken homeless woman; Regala, a grocer who apparently doesn’t like Jews; and Madame Lafayette, who walks naked in front of him. As the summer goes on, his mother realizes she cannot protect him from the increasingly violent raids, so she helps him to plan his escape. With Yacov and Fetnât at his side, he miraculously avoids death, but in the process he must witness events that are worse than any fears he or his mother ever had.
Henri Husetowski : Henri Husetowki was born in Bordeaux to Polish immigrant parents. He is a retired teacher now living in Paris. L’été chagrin is his first novel.