Author Interview and Revies: The Kaminski Cure
The Kaminsky Cure
By Christopher New
The Kaminsky Cure is a poignant yet comedic novel of a half Jewish/half Christian family caught up in the machinery of Hitler’s final solution. The matriarch, Gabi, was born Jewish but converted to Christianity in her teens. The patriarch, Willibald, is a Lutheran minister who, on one hand is an admirer of Hitler, but on the other hand, the conflicted father of children who are half-Jewish. Mindful and resentful of her husband’s ambivalence, Gabi is determined to make sure her children are educated, devising schemes to keep them in school even after learning that any child less than 100% Aryan will eventually be kept from completing education. She even hires tutors who are willing to teach half-Jewish children and in this way comes to hire Fraulein Kaminsky who shows Gabi how to cure her frustration and rage: to keep her mouth filled with water until the urge to scream or rant has passed.
I received a copy of this book to review, but these words and opinions are 100% my own. This post contains affiliate links for easy shopping.
When I first came across this novel, I thought the cover was intriguing and it looked like a perfect book choice for my women's studies course that I started this past school year. I could also see this as a unique text in a high school or college Holocaust Unit. It was one book that I couldn't put down, and I am sure you will find it that way too.
There are lots of things I notice this Christmas that I’ve never noticed before. When my mother takes me shopping, for instance, which is only between the hours of three and five, there are certain village stores she will go into and certain stores she won’t. And the stores she will not enter are usually the smarter ones, the fish shop and the cooperative, for instance, which are near the best inns like Franzi Wimmer’s and have glossy por-traits of the Führer prominently on show inside, while the shops she does enter are the cheaper ones, even the dirtier ones, like the baker whose bread is often stale and the dairy where the milk is often sour. They have pictures of the Führer on their walls too, of course, but smaller ones and not so often dusted. Some of them even have little specks of fly-shit on his face.
I’m puzzled by my mother’s shopping choices. I take it that as we are from Berlin, we must be a cut above the rest, so we should be going to the best shops, not the worst. And why do we go only in the late afternoon? I know that other people like Jägerlein go at any time of the day. My mother doesn’t explain these anomalies, and I sense I’m not supposed to know the real reason, although I’m still convinced it has to do with our being proper Germans, while the villagers are not. Nobody tells me where I’ve gone wrong. Nobody explains that Gabi is a vicious and degenerate Jewess, that the best shops won’t serve her, that in any case she’s allowed to shop only between the hours of three and five so that decent Aryans shoppers can arrange to avoid the disgusting sight of her altogether.
My parents have always been bickering and crying (I think that’s normal—what else do I know?), but they never openly mention this source of their troubles. Imagine, I can’t recall ever being called a half-Jew yet, let alone a Yid, and perhaps I never have been. I don’t even know what a Yid or half-Jew is. Sara does, of course; she knows all right. And so do the others. But not me. Why should I? I’m never allowed out to play with the village children, so they aren’t going to tell me. And neither Jä-gerlein nor my mother is going to either. As for my brother and
sisters—they’re certainly not going to tell me what it’s like to be called a half-Jew or a dirty Yid. Like rape victims, they never tell because they feel they’re guilty.
I had a chance to ask Christopher about his favorite writers/stories and his writing process. I am so glad he was able to share with us.
Who is your favorite author? Why?
I don't really have a favorite author. Or, rather, it depends on factors like mood, experience, what I happen to be reading now... I guess these would be fairly stable candidates though for always being near the top of the list (novelists only): Baudelaire,Jane Austen, Tolstoy, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Melville, Proust
Why? Well, they just seem (at their best) to catch something in their particular and different ways that shines more brightly, for me at any rate, than some others. I haven't included recent or contemporary authors in that list, not because I don't think that highly of them, but because I'm not really sure yet how (for me) they will stand the test of time.
Who is your favorite character in your book? Why?
Who is your favorite character in your book? Why?
Favorite character? It's hard to pick between Sara and the narrator. Sara is full of depth and sorrow, who perhaps feels most deeply all that is going on. But the narrator is a wonderful mixture of innocence and sharp irony.
How do you handle writer’s block?
Walk around the block. Or just do and think of something else. Or put the problem in your mind last thing at night and see if you have a eureka moment on waking.
What advice do you have for young/student writers?
Listen to your teachers - and then forget them. Don't give up - unless it's money or fame you're after, in which case don't even start.
Explain your revision process
I usually leave a draft for at least several weeks, sometimes months. Then, when I look at it again, I see a lot that needs improvement. This process goes on for several drafts. Eventually I'm ready for outside comments from friends I trust or editors. That's harder - I usually resist their suggestions if they go against my conception of the book. Then, sometimes grudgingly, I admit they may be right and follow their suggestions. The process of revising goes on and on, sometimes until the editor says it's going to the printer. In that sense, a book is never finished, it just gets taken out of your hands. Ann Tyler said once how much she would have liked to change one of her published works when she read it several years later.That's because not only does the book change over time, but you do too.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
That depends on the book. For this book (The Kaminsky Cure) I was a plotter - I knew roughly what each scene would be like before I wrote it. With other books I sometimes find my way as I go along, although I nearly always know what my destination is.
What is your daily page or word count record?
I don't have one. I don't set myself to write a certain amount each day. Sometimes I write two or three paragraphs, sometimes half a dozen pages. It just depends how difficult it is, how complex, or maybe how stale I am on one day or another.
What is your favorite story of all time?
Usually the one I'm working on! Seriously, I'd find it hard to answer that question because I don't think like that, I don't ask myself, If you press me for an answer, I'd fall back on something like Madame Bovary or Anna Karenina, I think because those are stories I read at a certain age - the age when you are most impressionable, and the impression lasts.
About the Author
Christopher New was born in England and was educated at Oxford and Princeton Universities. Philosopher as well as novelist, he founded the Philosophy Department in Hong Kong University, where he taught for many years whilst writing The China Coast Trilogy (Shanghai, The Chinese Box and A Change of Flag) and Goodbye Chairman Mao, as well as The Philosophy of Literature. He now divides his time between Europe and Asia and has written novels set in India (The Road to Maridur), Egypt (A Small Place in the Desert) and Europe (The Kaminsky Cure). His books have been translated into Chinese, German, Italian, Japanese and Portuguese. His latest novel, Gage Street Courtesan, appeared in March 2013.