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They chose not to speak and now they are gone…What’s left to fill the silence is no longer theirs. This is my story, woven from the threads of rumour and legend.
Jakub Rand flees his village for Prague, only to find himself trapped by the Nazi occupation. Deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp, he is forced to sort through Jewish books for a so-called Museum of the Extinct Race. Hidden among the rare texts is a tattered prayer book, hollow inside, containing a small pile of dirt.
Back in the city, Františka Roubíčková picks over the embers of her failed marriage, despairing of her conversion to Judaism. When the Nazis summon her two eldest daughters for transport, she must sacrifice everything to save the girls from certain death.
Decades later, Bram Presser embarks on a quest to find the truth behind the stories his family built around these remarkable survivors.
The Book of Dirt is a completely original novel about love, family secrets, and Jewish myths. And it is a heart-warming story about a grandson’s devotion to the power of storytelling and his family’s legacy.
‘A beautiful literary mind.’
‘An impressive and captivating story of remembrance, a journey into the past for the sake of deciphering our present.’
‘In The Book of Dirt the fractured lines of memory create a gripping story of survival and love.’
‘An immense work of love and anger, a book Bram Presser was born to write.’
‘Meet Bram Presser, aged five, smoking a cigarette with his grandmother in Prague. Meet Jakub Rand, one of the Jews chosen to assemble the Nazi’s Museum of the Extinct Race. Such details, like lightning flashes, illuminate this audacious work about the author’s search for the grandfather he loved but hardly knew. Working in the wake of writers like Modiano and Safran Foer, Presser brilliantly shows how fresh facts can derail old truths, how fiction can amplify memory. A smart and tender meditation on who we become when we attempt to survive survival.’
‘The Book of Dirt is a grandson’s tender act of devotion, the product of a quest to rescue family voices from the silence, to bear witness, drawing on legend, journey and history, and shaped by extraordinary storytelling.’
‘A remarkable tale of Holocaust survival, love and genealogical sleuthing…A beautiful tale that will stay with the reader long after the book’s end.’