Out and About [the official end to BookRambler’s hibernation]
The Sins of the Father book launch
With experienced journalist/producer/writer George Rosie chairing, this could have been an hours’ love-in of light banter with knowing questions and in-jokes and ‘friendly’ planted questions from kent faces in the audience. I thought that’s how it would go and it would have been a pleasant way to pass an hour. Happily, I was wrong. The launch of Allan Massie’s latest book: The Sins of the Father (Vagabond Voices) in Edinburgh’s Waterstones (West End) was a masterclass in book launches.
Rosie assumed a knowledgeable audience. He introduced Massie (critic, novelist, and historian) and then talked about the book’s ideas and gave it a global and historical context instead of just telling us the story and highlighting the best bits as so often happens at a launch. The discussion ranged over the politics of war and its messy aftermath, damaged relationships and what happens to the people involved in atrocities: what should/would/could we do if it was our father/mother/uncle?
Questions ranged from easy: ‘have you ever been to Argentina?’, to more challenging questions about ‘how we represent the aftermath of war’ to the absurd ‘do the French write questioningly about their role in war as you do?’, to the intelligent reader: ‘why does Becky act as she does at the end of the book?’ All the questions (even daft ones) drew lengthy intelligent responses. Massie spoke of how he was ‘given the idea for the book’, why he considered that ‘ethics are more important than ideology’ and his desire to create ‘a moral centre in the book’.
First published in 1991 The Sins of the Father is republished by Indie publishers Vagabond Voices to a new readership. Massie could have gone the route of other writers and self-produced this out-of-print title as an e-book. That would, I think, diminish it. Vagabond Voices have produced a beautiful, high quality book with side flaps and an introduction written by Alan Taylor.
Taylor writes that, The Sins of the Father is an “intelligent, intellectually-challenging and disturbing novel. It is meant, of course, to make us think as well as to entertain us.”
The double act of Rosie and Massie certainly did all of this last Thursday evening.
The Sins of the Father – Publisher’s note:
A Nazi war criminal’s son and a Holocaust survivor’s daughter decide to get married in the pleasant, middle-class conformity of sixties Argentina. When the two families come together, Becky’s blind father recognises the voice of the former SS officer, and sets off a chain of events that to varying degrees damage everyone at that meeting. Franz has to discover the real past of his rather distant father, who is kidnapped by Mossad agents and taken to Israel for trial. The action shifts to that country, and then to England. Allan Massie uses this drama to explore a wealth of ideas concerning such themes as guilt, retribution, identity, power, political motivation, memory and above all, as the title implies, the effects of brutal conflicts and war crimes on the following generation. Massie does not dwell on the savagery of the crimes, but forensically analyses the scar they leave in history, suggesting that, post Holocaust, we inhabit a different moral world – a world in which we can no longer ignore the enormity of the crimes of which we are capable.