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A bitter, beautiful and important book Robert Fisk, THE INDEPENDENT
The French sensation, now in English translation.
Franpoise Frenkel was a Jewish woman born in Poland and enamoured of all things literary and French. In 1921 she set up the first French-language bookshop in Berlin, recognising the craving for French culture in that city in the wake of the First World War. Her business was a success – attracting diplomats and celebrities, authors and artists. But life in Berlin for a Jewish woman and a foreigner soon became untenable.
Frenkel was forced to flee to Paris and compelled to keep moving as she attempted to survive in a world disintegrating around her. Her observations of and interactions with the French people, both those who would give her up to the Nazi authorities and those who risked their own lives and families by offering her refuge, show how humanity strives to assert itself even in the darkest times.
Frenkel’s book, written with piercing clarity and sensibility in the immediate aftermath of her escape to Switzerland, was originally published in 1945 in Geneva. But only recently was a copy of this forgotten work discovered and a decision made at French publisher Gallimard to republish it, seventy years later.
Very little is known of Franpoise Frenkel’s subsequent life, except that she returned to live in Nice where she had spent much of her time during the war, and where she died in 1975.
No Place to Lay One’s Head is the story of refugees, those fleeing terror, the world over.
With a moving preface from Nobel Prize-winning author Patrick Modiano.
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