Olympia: A Novel
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Drawing on imaginary outtakes from Riefenstahl's infamous film of the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, Dennis Bock weaves together the lives of a family living in the shadow of history.
Olympia is the story of post-war German immigrants, as told by their son 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 this remarkable family, it is the private histories, the grand failings and small triumphs of Peter's family that remain etched in the reader's imagination. From Ruby's struggle to rise above her leukemia and her father's love of severe weather and killing tornadoes, to the saint who witnesses a miracle at the bottom of a drowned Spanish village.
Set against the backdrop of some of the most significant Olympic moments of our times--the Nazis' stylish and sinister glorification of the Berlin Olympics and the 1972 Munich hostage--taking in which 11 Israelis were murdered--Olympia offers a bold and refreshing perspective on the tragic relationship between Germans and Jews in this century.
Bock writes with insight and clarity in a breath-taking, beautiful prose that signals the debut of a brilliant new talent.
the light switch and begin looking around. There’s a wall of jam jars to the right of the stairs. I want to find something to take home with me. An old gun from the war, a bayonet or hand grenade. Old soldiers keep things like that. I pick up one of the jars from the shelf and brush off the dust with my sleeve. Windfall. I peer through the warped glass and see two pickled lizards. There are dozens of jars, within each a snake or turtle or a few mice or small birds, at least a pair of unhatched
starting to get dumped on too.” When Ulla rushes back into the kitchen five minutes later and says she needs help, my mother unties her apron, slips the ring back on her finger, and leaves with her through the side door. I follow close behind, down the hill to the site of our cremation, and find my mother kneeling in front of Willy, wiping his face with a handkerchief. Ulla’s standing a few feet off to the side. He’s sitting in one of the fold-up chairs, his legs stretched out in front of him.
He put down his fork and took the Berlin photograph in his hand. “What are we going to do? You know something like this requires commitment.” “Elizabeth?” my father said. My mother was at the sink, rinsing out the coffee filter. Her wedding ring sat on the countertop, a safe distance away from the drain. She turned around, hands still dripping. “I’m not prepared to lose my daughter to someone else’s lost dream.” Boris and my father looked at each other across the table. I knew my father. Give
east up to the Baltic Sea after the war. We’d met at the fundraiser for a Nicaragua relief package we were sending down later that month. Suzanne was there with a friend, a woman from Bolivia—the friend whose apartment we used in those days—named Ingrid. I asked Suzanne if she wanted to go for a drink later that week. But sitting across from Anna the next morning I decided this wasn’t the direction I wanted to take my life. I’d go to where we planned to meet but leave quickly if things got out
details of all the dams in the country. Because we were only at twenty per cent to begin with, an escape rate as fast as that would drain the Atazar in about four hours. Then it occurred to me that this wasn’t a miscommunication. Maybe the timetable had been changed suddenly because Puentes Viejas was deteriorating faster than had been expected. I knew it was an old dam, one of Franco’s first, built in 1940, right after the war when cement was still scarce and of poor quality. Maybe ten