A Nazi war criminal’s son and a Holocaust survivor’s daughter decide to get married in the pleasant, middle-class conformity of sixties Argentina. When the two families come together, Becky’s blind father recognises the voice of the former SS officer, and sets off a chain of events that to varying degrees damage everyone at that meeting. Franz has to discover the real past of his distant father, who is kidnapped by Mossad agents and taken to Israel for trial. The action shifts to that country, and then to England.
Allan Massie uses this drama to explore a wealth of ideas concerning such themes as guilt, retribution, identity, power, political motivation, memory and above all, as the title implies, the effects of brutal conflicts and war crimes on the following generation. Massie does not dwell on the savagery of the crimes, but forensically analyses the scar they leave in history, suggesting that, post Holocaust, we inhabit a different moral world — a world in which we can no longer ignore the enormity of the crimes of which we are capable.
In 1964, famous economist and Holocaust survivor Dr. Eli Czinner lives in Argentina with his English wife, Nell, and their daughter Becky. In the years following the war, he lost his sight, an appropriate fate for a man who was metaphorically blind during the fascist period, when ``he had combined his contempt for the Nazis with his happy confidence that he could influence them, even lead them by the nose, save himself and his people by making himself useful.'' But his contribution to Germany's economic reconstruction prompted whispers of collaboration that have haunted him ever since. Introduced to Becky's fiance, Franz, and his father, Rudi, Eli recognizes the older man's voice as that of a former SS officer and mass murderer. Rudi's eventual trial in Israel lays on Franz and Becky the weight of their fathers' past sins--a burden that will never leave them, the novel's final section reveals. Londoner Massie ( A Question of Loyalties ) adroitly varies first- and third-person narrative voices in a story that to plumb the foundations of truth and tragedy, history and memory, in a tale of one generation's painful legacy to the next. ( July )