Raeff, Anne 1959-
RAEFF, Anne 1959-
PERSONAL: Born 1959, in Tenafly, NJ; partner of Lori Ostlund. Education: College graduate.
ADDRESSES: Offıce—Two Serious Ladies, 3901 Central Ave. NE, Albuquerque, NM 87108.
CAREER: Has worked as a teacher of English in Spain and a high school teacher in U.S.; Two Serious Ladies, Albuquerque, NM, coproprietor; writer.
Clara Mondschein's Melancholia, MacAdam/Cage (San Francisco, CA), 2002.
Contributor of short stories to periodicals, including Side Show and Oasis.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A second novel.
SIDELIGHTS: Anne Raeff is a world traveler and the co-owner of an Asian furniture store in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The daughter of immigrants who fled Jewish persecution during World War Two, Raeff grew up in the northern New Jersey town of Tenafly and moved to New York City when she was seventeen. After earning her college degree she lived in Spain and Malaysia, where she supported herself by teaching. Raeff chose to move to New Mexico because she found that, for her, the Manhattan lifestyle was not conducive to creative writing. The high rents and temptations of shows and readings left her little time to do anything but work as a teacher. In 1988 she moved to Albuquerque and found the right atmosphere for her creative work. "Albuquerque provides me with a balance of calm and conflict and, therefore, the space and freedom to transform my experiences into words," she said in Alibi magazine. "Here I have been able to get the distance I need to write about the world in which I grew up. I am convinced that if I had stayed in New York, it would have consumed me."
Raeff's debut novel, Clara Mondschein's Melancholia, explores how the experience of the Holocaust influenced three generations of women. The title character, Clara, suffers from crippling bouts of depression. Her illness is reflected through the tales of her mother, Ruth, and her daughter, Deborah. A volunteer at an AIDS hospice, Ruth finds herself telling her life story to a dying patient. She recalls having been deported from her workplace in the Austrian Alps to a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia, where—miraculously—she gave birth to Clara. Deborah, Ruth's granddaughter, seeks some normalcy in her life by playing the cello and interacting with her friends, but eventually she and Ruth must confront the ailing Clara and try to restore her health.
In an interview with Alibi, Raeff said: "I wanted to write a different take on the Holocaust. It's been written about so much. . . . My question was: Why do some people respond to adversity in one way and other people respond to it in another way?" Raeff was unable to interest an agent in the project, but she made a direct sale of the manuscript to MacAdam/Cage, a San Francisco-based publisher of literary fiction. Clara Mondschein's Melancholia was published in 2002.
A Publishers Weekly critic commended the novel for its "grim, affecting tales" and concluded that the book "is rich in detail and insight." Library Journal correspondent Edward Cone recommended it for "all literary collections where sensitive writing set against an historical backdrop is appreciated." A contributor to Kirkus Reviews wrote: "A tragic past and a difficult present converge quietly and compassionately in Raeff's debut . . . a family portrait of considerable eloquence and intelligence."
Raeff makes frequent trips abroad to buy items for her shop, Two Serious Ladies. She is at work on another novel.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2002, review of ClaraMondschein's Melancholia, p. 987.
Library Journal, September 15, 2002, Edward Cone, review of Clara Mondschein's Melancholia, p. 93.
Publishers Weekly, September 9, 2002, review of ClaraMondschein's Melancholia, p. 43.