And the Rat Laughed

And the Rat Laughed is a five-part novel dealing with the horrors of the Holocaust and the influence of this harrowing chapter of human history, on man’s relationship with God, on the understanding of human nature, on the need to forget in order to survive, and on the need to remember, nonetheless.         

Part One is the story of a nameless five-year-old child, as it is told to her granddaughter years later. The child’s parents entrust her to a family of farmers living in a remote, picturesque Polish village. She is hidden in a dark potato cellar for a year, with little food and only a rat for company - and raped repeatedly by the farmers’ son. The narrative, which alternately advances and retreats, also presents a metafictional contemplation of the act of storytelling: What is its purpose? Does it really have the power to liberate the storyteller? Does the act of silencing and obliteration transform memory into an independent entity, governed by memory – “the story’s legal offspring”? 

Part Two is the granddaughter’s report to her schoolteacher, which sheds more light on the survivor’s story as well as on the title of the novel. The rat, according to the alternative myth of creation related by the grandmother, demanded that God grant him the gift of laughter, but soon came to realize God’s most miserable mistake: “… in a world where children must be hidden … chaos is not simply an incidental ‘bug,’ but a complete systems breakdown. Such a world should be destroyed from its foundations and rebuilt from the start.”

Part Three is a collection of Internet poems, sent out in 2009 via a strange, mysterious website. It exposes the chaotic, upside down world of the hidden child in the darkness. This website becomes the foundation of the popular myth “Girl and Rat”.

In Part Four an anthropologist in the year 2099 writes her research report, bent on uncovering the origins of the widespread myth. This chapter, which defines myth as “encrypted historical memory,” is also a reflection on the nature of memory – its persistent presence in man’s consciousness, its scarring effects, and the possibility of subsequent hope: “A historical scar is indeed no guarantee that horrific events will not repeat themselves; the existence of memory can, nevertheless, grant some hope.”

Part Five, the novel’s final chapter, is the diary of the Catholic priest who takes the child in. In an attempt to restore her speech, her hope, and her faith in God and mankind, he discovers that he has lost his own.

 Jane Fonda reads from the novel, LA, November 2012


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