The Arkby Margot Benary-Isbert
translated by Clara and Richard Winston
Two rooms all to themselves—it was almost too good to be true! For this was postwar Germany, filled with starving, homeless people trying to stay alive amidst the rubble, and to the Lechows the two freezing attic rooms in Mrs. Verduz’ house on Parsley Street were an unbelievable stroke of luck. No matter that every stick of furniture and even the cracked dishes were borrowed from a grudging but kind landlady, that food was so scarce they were nearly always hungry, that Matthias, loving the stars and growing things, was assigned to construction work by the Labor Office. Now that there was a roof over their heads, Joey and Andrea could attend school, and perhaps Father, if he was still alive, would find his way to them from the prison camp in Russia.
It was a makeshift arrangement at best, but somehow Mother made the cheerless rooms homelike, and soon there were good friends—lovable, half wild Hans Ulrich who treasure hunted with Joey in the ruins of bombed out houses; musical Dieter; and plump, cheerful Lenchen—to share their meager but merry Christmas celebration. Only shy, lonely Margaret, who felt that half herself had died with her twin brother Christian in East Germany, made no special friend, unless one counted Caliph, Mrs. Verduz’ cat. But eventually it was Margaret’s love of animals that led her to sprightly Mrs. Almut and Rowan Farm and, before the next Christmas, Matthias had exchanged his hated job for the hard but satisfying work of the farm. Margaret, too, happily caring for Mrs. Almut’s Great Danes, was beginning to understand the inexorable cycle of life and death, and the Ark, an old railroad car on the farm converted into a home, was ready to receive a reunited family.
The Ark paints an honest, realistic picture of the terrible aftermath of war in a defeated country. Most of all, it is the story of courage—the courage of real people who, caught up in the adversity that shattered their lives, can still look at the future with hope and at the past without bitterness.
Hardcover with dust jacket.