An Afterlife with author Frances Bartkowski
Wednesday, February 19, 2020 - 5:00pm to 6:30pm
Smith Warehouse, Ahmadieh Family Lecture Hall, Bay 4, C105
Please join the Franklin Humanities Institute for a reading and discussion of An Afterlife, a novel by Frances Bartkowski. Books will be available for purchase from The Regulator Bookshop, and a reception and book signing will follow the reading. This event is free and open to the public!
In An Afterlife, young couple Ruby and Ilya meet in a Bavarian displaced persons camp established by the Allies. Both lone survivors of their families, they are hardly unscathed. They are Polish Jews who’ve survived a series of labor and death camps.There, they, like all the displaced, are trying to figure out, how to figure out, what life is.
Life and home will need to be created anew. The novel follows the pair to northern New Jersey where, suffering from post-traumatic stress they each face challenges to adapt to a new culture, and adapt to one another.
The novel is told mostly from Ruby’s point of view, a character whose vitality and curiosity in the post-war years are her most remarkable features. Long after turning the last of its pages, readers will remember Ruby, with her pain and indomitable hope, and the love she holds for Ilya, a love that may or may not contain within it the seeds of her salvation.
Praise for An Afterlife:
“Frances Bartkowski’s An Afterlife gives us the imagined years of characters arriving on the east coast after a shared life in the displaced persons’ camp, opening up questions of surviving, even flourishing in the aftermath of unbearable atrocity and loss. This brilliant story relays the excitement for new life and community even as the ghosts of loss and complicity gather again, threatening to pull these characters back and down into the dark. Each one bears a singular relation to loss and love, and together they struggle to affirm the sound, the smell, the feel of a new world.”
— Judith Butler, author of Precarious Life
“An Afterlife is a totally surprising book, unforgettable in its depiction of the daily lives of holocaust survivors in postwar Germany… The characters agonize between remembering and forgetting, but An Afterlife moves forward, and like all truly visionary books, re-defines its title.
— Jayne Anne Phillips, author of Machine Dreams, Lark And Termite, and Quiet Dell
“Transcends the fiction genre...as immediate and vivid as a poetic memoir... (An) extraordinary novel.”
— Brenda Shaughnessy, author of Our Andromeda
Frances Bartkowski is Professor of English at Rutgers-Newark; Chair of the Department of Arts, Culture and Media; and Co-Director of Express Newark. She was director of the RU-Newark Women and Gender Studies Program, the oldest such program at Rutgers, from 1989-2002. She served as chair of the Department of English, and will assume the Interim Chair of the Arts, Culture and Media Department. She also works closely with graduate students in the American Studies doctoral program and the English Department master’s program. Bartkowski is also the author of Feminist Utopias, 1989; Travelers, Immigrants, Inmates, 1995; and Kissing Cousins: A Kinship Bestiary, 2008. Frances Bartkowski has taught courses in feminist theory, literature and criticism, memoir and autobiography, travel writing, utopian fiction, 20th century American and European fiction, and authors Toni Morrison, Philip Roth, Margaret Atwood, Edith Wharton, and Willa Cather. Bartkowski’s research interests include feminism, animal studies, trauma and memory studies.
This event is part of the Franklin Humanities Institute's World Arts series and is cosponsored by the Duke University English Department, Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies at Duke University, Duke German (the Department of Germanic Languages & Literature), and the Duke Center for Jewish Studies.