Screwed on Backwards

Nava Semel
Screwed on Backwards
a new novel
Kinneret, Zmora-Bitan, Dvir, 2011


A farm house in a small Italian village during the Nazi occupation. Madelene, a promising young opera singer, and her handicapped mother Dominica, struggle to survive after adopting a young orphan boy, Tomaso. One day, Tomaso senses a foreign presence in the house. But his questions are violently rejected and the two women he loves so much humiliate him publicly, claiming that he has his "head on backwards". To cope with the emotional blow, Tomaso retreats into his imagination. Convinced that a mysterious princess is trapped in the attic, he sends her gifts and letters up the chimney, in secret. When a German soldier falls in love with Madelene their lives become even more unsettled. Will the soldier`s protection shield the family, or will his arrival reveal the preciously guarded secret? This story, written during the Nazi occupation, ends up in the hands of a nurse in a Tel Aviv hospital who then tells it to a patient in a coma, in an attempt to awaken him. This moving novel raises the difficult question: What price will people pay to maintain their humanity in dire circumstances, and how far are we willing to go to save a single soul?



From the Book
There is one unforgettable moment, the kind you obsessively relive so that you will not overlook even the tiniest gesture by mistake. You must protect the memory of it, right to the end, so that it does not drain away. It is that unforgettable moment of Tomaso’s, that flash of wild joy within the desolation of his childhood- the day after he checked the rope end at the bottom of the chimney and found nothing there. What he sent her up the shaft had actually been taken. The discovery that he’d told the truth and the world around him lied, struck him like one more slap. But unlike the others, this blow filled him with sweet rapture. The princess was really there above him, she was not an invention of Fra Diabolo’s, but an unquestionable reality.


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