Pseudonym for Edith Steinschreiber. Nationality: Italian (originally Hungarian: immigrated to Italy, 1954). Born: Tiszakarad, 3 May 1932. Family: Married Nelo Risi. Career: Lives in Rome and works for RAI (Italian Radio and Broadcasting Company).
Chi ti ama cosí. 1958; as Who Loves You Like This, 2001.
Andremo in cittá. 1962.
Le sacre nozze [The Sacred Nuptials]. 1969.
Due stanze vuote. 1974.
Mio splendido disastro. 1979.
Lettera alla madre. 1988.
Nuda proprietá. 1993.
Il silenzio degli amanti. 1997.
Signora Auschwitz. 1999.
Il tatuaggio. 1975.
In difesa del padre. 1980.
Itinerario/Útirány: Poesie scelte. 1998.*
Andremo in cittá, 1966.
"An Interview with Edith Bruck" by Brenda S. Webster, in 13th Moon, 11(1-2), 1993, pp. 170-75; "Strategies for Remembering: Auschwitz, Mother, and Writing in Edith Bruck" by Adalgisa Giorgio, in European Memories of the Second World War, edited by Helmut Peitsch, Charles Burdett, and Claire Gorrara, 1999.
Director: Films— Improvviso, 1979; Un altare per la patria, 1986; Un altare per la madre, 1987.* * *
Edith Bruck's first book, Who Loves You Like This (published as Chi ti ama cosí in 1958), is a memoir that was inspired by the irrepressibility of her near-death experience in being deported to the concentration camps at the age of 12 and by the resultant obligation to bear witness to it. She chose the literary genre of the memoir because at the time she could not reduce her life to fiction. Her later works, however, including novels and poetry, also comment on her concentration-camp experience.
Bruck particularly thematizes the Auschwitz experience in her novel Lettera alla madre (1988). The narrator of the novel is the letter writer, Katia, a survivor of Auschwitz. The addressee of the letter, Katia's mother, died in the gas chambers along with several of Katia's siblings. Katia's letter is a desperate attempt to form a dialogue with her deceased mother, with whom she had a love/hate relationship. The mother was a strict orthodox Jew, while Katia is a religiously nonobservant Jew. The narrator regrets the fact that no true dialogue can take place but tries to content herself with an imaginary dialogue.
The letter itself is a combination of autobiographical reminiscences and a thematization of intergenerational conflict as well as a poignant lament over the Holocaust from the viewpoint of an eyewitness. Portions of the novel may have been influenced by the 1987 suicide of the preeminent Holocaust survivor and author Primo Levi , who publicly endorsed Bruck's literary career.
The continued desire for a dialogue with the murdered mother is also thematized in Bruck's poem "Impression" (1993):
Last night in bed/with my eyes closed,/The cats far away in the darkness,/I felt a hand on my forehead, a gesture/somewhere between blessing and consolation/I didn't know who it belonged to/but such wholeness came over me/that I smiled there, alone,/the way a contented child might smile in a dream/Only on waking did I think of the hand/of my mother, long dead
Both the novel and the poem express that Bruck's mother, who died during the Holocaust, is still a major part of Bruck's life, 50 years after her death.
In the poem "Survivors" (1993), Bruck alludes to the irrepressibility of the Holocaust experience, which traumatizes its victims for the rest of their lives:
With us survivors/you have to tread softly: an offhand,/everyday look connects itself/to other terrible looks./Each pain is part of the one single pain/that pulses all the time in our blood.
Like the German-Swedish poet Nelly Sachs , she pleads for humans everywhere to recognize the vulnerability of the Holocaust survivors, who will never fully recover from what they experienced. Later in the poem, she refers to the phenomenon known as survivor's guilt:
We are not like others/We survived for others, in place of others/The life we remember, the life/we must remember in order to live/is not our own/Leave us in peace. We are not alone.
Bruck posits that those who survived the cruel agony of the concentration camps have a moral obligation to remember those who did not survive, such as her mother.
—Peter R. Erspamer
See the essay on Who Loves You Like This.