Sunday, 19 April 2015

The Afterlife of Stars

Finished April 18
The Afterlife of Stars by Joseph Kertes

This novel is told from the point of view of a young boy, aged, as he says, 9.8, Robert Beck is a Hungarian Jew, one of the many saved by Raoul Wallenberg. The year is 1956, and the Russians have moved in on Budapest. Robert's family's apartment is taken over by Russians,and his father insists that now is the time to leave. They idea is to visit Robert's grandmother's sister Hermina in Paris, and then go on to Canada, where Robert's father's cousin Peter lives. So Roberts parents, Lili and Simon, his grandmother Klari, his older brother Attila, aged 13.7, his father's cousin Andras and his wife Judit, heavily pregnant, all pack up what they can carry and take the train as far west towards Austria as they can.
Attila is a high energy boy, full of questions, insistent with them, and also easily angered. He is constantly getting ideas and dragging Robert along with him. Robert is a calm boy, observant, interested, and as his Hermina says, born wise. He thinks a lot and does worry about things, but doesn't burst out with them as Attila does.
The book takes us as far as Paris and the ship to Canada. The writing is full of imagery, with Attila's questions insistent, startling, and sometimes violent. Robert's inward thoughts are also full of imagery, but a dreamier version, thoughtful and deeper. This is a story of a hidden past, a difficult past to come to terms with, and an uncertain future. This is a story of lives in motion, of a close family in a trying situation. This is a story of children, aching for knowledge, but not always able to deal with that knowledge.


  1. Sounds good. Just one question: does the ending leave them hanging, or does it feel like an actual ending?

  2. It feelings like an ending and it looks toward the future at the same time. I could see a sequel taking Robert through life as an immigrant in Canada with his family.

    1. I'm okay with that kind of ending. :) Thanks!