by Rahel Lerner

Does It Cost to Reveal the Truth?

Imagining a Holocaust experience

And the Rat Laughed, by Nava Semel (Hybrid Publishers, Melbourne, $25.00), opens with the painful, halting voice of an elderly woman in Tel Aviv in 1999. Her granddaughter has asked her to tell her story, but she cannot find the words for her Holocaust experience of horror and abuse endured in an underground potato pit, with only a rat for company. Elements of the grandmother’s story are selectively shared with the reader as she weighs the costs of revealing the truth of her suffering. Only in the next section of the novel, in which the granddaughter recounts to her teacher what she gleaned from the story, can the reader discern what the grandmother chose to tell. The grandmother has shared what she could bear to, much of it in the form of a legend, a rat-centric creation myth.

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