Monsieur optimist by Alain Berenboom

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The following sample essay on “Monsieur optimist by Alain Berenboom” analyzes a novel written by a professor of copyright law at the University of Brussels. The essay also pays attention to the biography of Alain Berenboom.

“Alain! What are you doing? I do not like it when you touch my stuff!” The warning voice of the mother hears the longest adult son for ten years after her death, when it comes over suddenly the urge to clean up the parental home.

In the basement, he found boxes full of papers, letters in Yiddish and Polish , a few photos – all “unique document”, but only fragments of life paths. He decides to write down the personal story of his parents and ancestors, they remain sketchy needs. The result is a very late tribute, which also represents a search for identity of the author, hovers over everything but the question of how much, mindsets, culture and religion infected by the old traditions in him.

And although the author prefaces that he would enrich his modest material “speculation,” he wanted to write “the great European novel”, and will prefer to be limited to “a vague sketch,” the family chronicle of Alain Berenboom has also representative Relevance for the “history of the 20th century”.

the roots of the family are in Eastern Europe. Chaïm Berenbaum is 1907 in Maków, Poland, to the world. After school and military service, he leaves his home in 1928 to study at the University of Liege pharmacy. In his pharmacy in Brussels one day takes the “most beautiful woman in the world”, in which he fell in love at first sight.

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Rebecca was born in 1915 in the Russian Vilnius. Because you have been denied as a Jew after high school university studies, she also went abroad. In 1940, the two

married. Unlike many Jews and most of the immediate family survived the young couple the time of the German occupation. As the end of October 1940 was made the arrangement is that all Jews must report, to Chaïm although he, “the atheist, the Left, the cosmopolitan,” the “since his departure from Poland never leaves nor” hastily in this damn Register Enter ” more in a synagogue “was, but knew of the harassment of the Jewish population in Hitler’s Germany. Only later did he tried to evade surveillance, playing cat and mouse with the authorities, changes with Rebecca constantly the apartment, they take new names and identities, give like typical Belgian.

Chaïm involved in the Belgian Resistance, procured false papers for refugees, are military information on and keeps contact with the organization pole Groupe Général de sabotage . That he risked this perilous dance on the razor’s edge, justifies the nickname that once gave him a friend and made his son to the title of his book: “Monsieur optimist”. Given the constantly perfected tracking mechanisms of the occupation, which he inferred escapes again and again, however, you could look at him as a naive lucky …

After the war ended, in 1947, Alain, is the only child of born Berenbooms. He enjoyed a sheltered growing up in the small family. What went through his father and mother during the war, as the relatives had lived in Poland, about the parents do not speak. “The war years wiped out? How removed with chlorine bleach.” The past remains a closely guarded secret before the boys; They also do not care to adolescents much. His father Chaïm dies in January 1979 of a heart attack, Mother Rebecca followed him until 2001.

The fragmentary nature of the raw material and its processing is reflected to the Chronicle in a casually light form. The author recorded in short chapters of a few pages in contemplative conversational tone that he has explored. Some brief episodes he designed scenic from other phases, he summarizes reporting together, integrates his own experiences and memories. He always kept a critical distance from his material, which he boldly commented on and not keep his opinions behind the mountain.

In intimate dialogue with the reader ( “You can follow me?”) He suggests repeatedly with questions for thought – about the behavior of his family members, Belgian collaborators ( “ostrich policy”), the political development, his own position , Can he take out the right to judge people in situations that he has never experienced yourself? His parents, their siblings and grandparents suffered through “the hard way … the hatred of the Germans and the Poles and the Russians.” “I have the right … to decide on good and evil, so undifferentiated, like my father and my mother did?”

The author makes little difference in tone if he daily routine, Private or deadly serious referenced. harmless bear little chapter, partly whimsical headlines reveal the little that are designated for contents thus: “The unsolved mystery of the woman sawed,” “The Last Phantom”, “A mayor misses his channel.” Some winking intentioned representation may even ( “If the Germans [instead of all the persons of Jewish race] would say, all short-sighted, goitrous, one-legged, stutterers or Dubs bound to register themselves whether they too had all obeyed well?”) ​​Strange

that touch who told fortunes deeply the reader, not the design is owed. The author does without any dramatization. It’s far the simple, frugal life of these people in us in many ways, barely comprehensible time, that does not leave us indifferent. Grandmother Frania about was, as was customary, married by their parents. Your life in Maków the prewar years is characterized by icy winters, money worries and repression. Her husband Aba, who runs a general store, leading a relentless Regiment, aligned with the strict rules of Orthodox Judaism. He is bigoted, conservative and stubborn.

The couple has two sons (Chaïm and his brother) and two daughters, Esther and Sara. Chaim and Esther escape from the confines of their homes abroad. At times, even Sara lives in Brussels until the father ordered back to Poland. The obedient daughter follows the call. The timing of their return, however, is very bad, because Germany has occupied just Poland. Sara’s last letter, the Alain found in the boxes in the basement, is from Warsaw, July 29, 1942 …

Alain Berenboom is a professor of copyright law at the University of Brussels. In 1990 he published his first novel, “La position du missionnaire roux”. “Monsieur Optimiste” (2013), awarded the Belgian literary award Prix Victor Rossel and translated into German by Tanja Graf and Helmut Moysich first of his works, one is surrounded by many contemporary documents, the family members after the war opened up and have published. Each one of them provides an enriching puzzle pieces of the darkest period of our history. Alain Berenboom has honored from the few personal legacies, he found his family in a particularly individual way.

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Monsieur optimist by Alain Berenboom. (2019, Nov 18). Retrieved from

Monsieur optimist by Alain Berenboom
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