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An Interrupted Life: The Diaries and Letters of Etty Hillesum 1941–43

by Etty Hillesum
Persephone book no:

4 5 6

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The Far Cry
A Well Full of Leaves
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ISBN 9780953478057 

Etty Hillesum (1914–43) lived in Amsterdam, like Anne Frank, and like her she kept a diary. 'All the writings she left behind,' writes Eva Hoffman in her Preface to this edition of her diaries and letters, 'were composed in the shadow of the Holocaust, but they resist being read primarily in its dark light. Rather, their abiding interest lies in the light-filled mind that pervades them and in the astonishing internal journey they chart. Etty's pilgrimage grew out of the intimate experience of an intellectual young woman - it was idiosyncratic, individual, and recognisably modern... The private person who revealed herself in her diary was impassioned, erotically volatile, restless... Yet she had the kind of genius for introspection that converts symptoms into significance and joins self-examination to philosophical investigation... In the last stages of her amazing and moving journey, Etty seemed to attain that peace which passeth understanding... Finally, however, the violence and brutality she saw all around her overwhelmed even her capacity to understand... But by knowing and feeling so deeply and fully, an unknown young woman became one of the most exceptional and truest witnesses of the devastation through which she lived.'


The fabric, by Otti Berger (d. Auschwitz 1944), a Bauhaus designer living in Holland, could have been Etty's bedspread; the stripes running across the muted, if cheerful, pattern have the effect of barbed-wire.

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Categories: Abroad Biography Diaries History Politics Translations WWII

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