Allen Kurzweil was 5 when his father died. He doesn’t remember much about him. But that hasn’t stopped him from missing him for all of his life, perhaps his clearest memory being a hospital scene a few months before his father’s death. Robert Kurzweil, 54, was lying down and he squeezed his young son’s hand. Allen can’t recall his words or voice, but he remembers the sensation. Almost 50 years later, he remembers the face of the watch on his father’s wrist more vividly than the face of its owner.
Roger Cohen’s maternal great-grandfather was born in Siauliai, Lithuania, in 1877, and left for South Africa in 1896. Arriving penniless, Isaac Michel had no formal education but could add and subtract, and eventually built a large retail empire. He died almost five decades later, with a lavish estate in Johannesburg that included a sprawling home, an arboretum and a turquoise Cadillac in the curving driveway, the chauffeur at his call.
‘Tsuris ahead,” Steve Israel opens his debut novel, “The Global War on Morris” (Simon & Schuster). I’m not sure how many of his congressional colleagues in Washington would know the Yiddish word for troubles, but the meaning quickly becomes clear.
At this time of looking back and looking ahead, we’d like to point to some titles published over this past year that have been overlooked and are worthy of attention. Many relate to exile and memory, and one novel even speaks of a black market in memory.
Patrick Modiano’s newly translated novellas are mysteries of remembering and forgetting. The fictional narrators, who resemble the author, search for truth about an elusive past, always linked to the Nazi occupation of Paris.
In the early days of professional basketball in this country, the sport was largely a city game, played by upwardly mobile athletes from working-class families — often with immigrant roots — who used their shooting and defensive skills as their ticket to a better life.