Archive for the ‘News’ Category
JWS and Walter Kammerling, a Kindertransport Survivor, at Ayot 2011
A couple of weeks back, I appeared at a festival at Ayot. (That sounds a bit like I’m a wizard. But I kind of like it.) I read from my new novel, The English German Girl, which is about the Kindertrasport. I’ve done quite a lot of readings recently while promoting the book. But this one was different. Appearing on the stage alongside me was Walter Kammerling, a Kindertransport survivor whom I interviewed six years ago, when I was just starting to write the novel. Walter was whisked out of Vienna at the age of fifteen, which is the same age as my protagonist, Rosa, leaves Berlin.
Needless to say, it was an honour to share a platform with such a courageous and inspiring man. At one point, the host, Fiona MacIntosh, asked me to read a few paragraphs from the novel. Then she turned to Walter. “Did that extract ring true?” she asked. “Has Jake accurately captured the mood of the period?” There was a long pause. This was, as they say, the 64,000 dollar question. (What does that phrase actually mean? 64,000 dollar question? Should I google it? Can’t be bothered.) Anyway, my heart was in my mouth. Walter took a breath. “Yes,” he said, decisively. “Jake captured the atmosphere very well.” Relief doesn’t even begin to describe what I felt at that moment.
At the same time, what I felt was deeper than relief. Walter had brought home to me more vividly than ever before the greater meaning of my novel, which is to keep the memory of the Kindertransport alive in the minds of future generations. Or, on an even more fundamental level, to allow people to empathise with the persecuted and oppressed. Walter had travelled halfway across the country to appear at Ayot, determined – even at the age of 91 – to spread his message of pluralism and tolerance. My book, in some very small (and perhaps incomparable) way, is contributing to this effort.
After the event, there was a signing. A few people asked Walter to sign the novel as well. Before long this became the form; I would sign it, then he would sign below. I was humbled. This seemed to be exactly the right way to end such a very unique event.
Join Jake Wallis Simons at P&G Wells — the iconic bookshop that nestles snugly between Winchester College and Winchester Cathedral — to celebrate the publication of his new novel, The English German Girl. The evening will feature readings, discussions, and wine flowing like water. An event not to be missed.
6:30pm, P&G Wells, 11 College Street, Winchester | 01962 852016 | email@example.com
“Jake Wallis Simons – novelist, journalist and broadcaster – saw his latest novel sell out within 4 days of its publication this month, prompting an urgent reprint. He joins us to talk about that, the iPhone’s predictive text functionality and the many uses for a Swiss Army Knife.
What made you realise you were a writer?
About two years ago, everything seemed to be going badly. A chain of unfortunate events meant that I lost my agent, and the novel that I had been working on for years seemed to be falling apart. To add to the pressure, I had an 18-month-old baby and my wife found out she was pregnant with twins. At that point I considered my options, and realised that I was unqualified, both in terms of my experience and my disposition, to be anything other than a writer.
So I gritted my teeth, steeled myself, and slowly but surely waded out of the mire. Two years on, my luck seems to be changing. But it was only when I was forced to consider another vocation that I realised that I was cursed – or blessed – to be a writer, no matter what.”
Four days after The English German Girl went on sale, it was announced that the entire first print-run had sold out. Hugh Andrew, Managing Director of Polygon Books, said: “this shows not only that The English German Girl is an excellent and moving read, but also that as we approach a time when there will no longer be any Holocaust survivors living, there is a renewed interest in the Kindertransport.” A second edition is currently being printed.
At the launch party on Tuesday evening, Jake Wallis Simons paid tribute to the Kindertransport survivors who were present before reading a moving extract from the book which described the moment that the protagonist, Rosa Klein, said goodbye to her parents for the last time.
The afterparty took place at Home House in Portman Square, Marylebone.
On April 7, Jake Wallis Simons will be speaking at the Royal Society of Arts as part of Radio 4′s exciting new series FOUR THOUGHT, a “series of unscripted thought-provoking talks in which the speakers air their thinking on the trends, ideas, interests and passions that affect culture and society.”
He will be talking, unscripted, for 15 minutes on the subject of “what you didn’t know about Tibetan Buddhism”. Other speakers include Jonathan Sumption QC, the Independent columnist Christina Patterson, and the political scientist Professor Phil Cowley.
There will be a live studio audience. Find out more
The book has already been praised by Monica Ali as “fascinating and moving.” The eminent Holocaust historian Sir Martin Gilbert described it as a “powerful evocation of a bygone era,” and the Guardian journalist Jonathan Freedland said it is “an important subject explored by a writer to watch.” Buy the book
“I was absolutely mesmerised by the first half of the book as life for the Jews in Berlin steadily deteriorated. The writing is measured, almost unemotional, and all the more chilling for that. The level of detail is stunning but it’s demonstrated rather than delivered as exposition. I’ve read quite a bit about the nineteen-thirties in Berlin – but this was the first time that I really felt as though I was there. It’s not the major events which tell so much but the smaller points, like Jews not being allowed to ride bicycles, the ever present fear of ‘relocation’ or not knowing who could be trusted.
“It’s in the second half of the book that Rosa arrives in England and I thought that life would then become relatively easy for her, but it wasn’t to be. There are different influences at work: the more traditional approach to the Jewish religion of the relatives with whom she lived, the difficulties of knowing relatively little of the English language and the pain of separation from her family. There’s a big story here too with twists which I really wasn’t expecting.
“The characters stay with you long after you’ve finished the book. Their circumstances haunt your mind. It’s a book to buy and to savour and definitely one which you’ll return to in the future. Meticulously researched, beautifully written, atmospheric and lots of tension.”