AFFINITY KONAR reads from her novel MISCHLING

Mischling (Lee Boudreaux Books)

Mischling is indeed a paradox. The intangible magic of Konar’s novel is this: While it is set against a backdrop of one of the most horrific episodes in human history, it is lyrical, poetic, and filled with hope. It is a story about the pervasiveness of nightmares and the staggering power of dreams. About how, despite the most banal of evils, one can find the ability to see the world anew. It is a story about losing, but more than that it is a story about finding.

There’s an alchemy to Konar’s language: it is sonorous and beautiful, full of tender, affecting moments, yet it doesn’t spare the reader the dark realities playing out on the page. One of the book’s most striking passages comes early on, when Pearl recalls the girls’ arrival at Auschwitz: “I realized that Stasha and I would have to divide the responsibilities of living between us. Such divisions had always come naturally to us, and so there, in the early-morning dark, we divvied up the necessities: Stasha would take the funny, the future, the bad. I would take the sad, the good, the past.” We are compelled to follow these resilient, imaginative little girls through this treacherous, painful new world, as they work to comfort themselves for as long as they can with a private language and the games of their childhood. But the longer they remain at Auschwitz, the harder it becomes to battle the impending dangers and the growing burdens of guilt and pain. And when Pearl disappears, Stasha has to cling fiercely to the hope that she will one day find her sister again.

Konar derived many aspects of the novel from the testimony of survivors who were part of the horrific “Zoo” where Nazi scientist Josef Mengele experimented on hundreds of sets of twins. It’s a story that has remained largely untold, and that holds strong personal connections for Konar, who is of Polish-Jewish ancestry. She grew up captivated by her grandfather’s many stories of serving in the US Army during WWII. At the same time, doctors were huge figures in her life because her younger brother suffered from seizures. Mengele became a source of fascination. At sixteen, Konar read Lucette Lagnado’s Children of the Flames, the watershed book about Auschwitz’s “Angel of Death” and the children he tormented. She was haunted by the story but also found it wondrous that some of the twins from Mengele’s Zoo were able to grow up, clinging to each other yet going on to lead full, meaningful lives. Many of the characters in the book are based on real figures—Pearl and Stasha were inspired by several sets of twins but most closely by Eva Mozes Kor and Miriam Mozes Zeiger. Other characters were inspired by: Zvi Spiegel, who led thirty-five children back to Hungary after the war; Irma Grese, the female SS guard known as the “Hyena of Auschwitz”; and Gisella Perl, the Jewish doctor who helped care for hundreds of prisoners. Konar, who spent over a decade giving voice to these unforgettable characters, drew from the vivid testimony of survivors. She says that she regrets not being able to touch on every character she wanted to write about, but that she holds close those who are  at the novel’s center. For Konar, Pearl and Stasha’s bond, “with all its unbreakability and longing,” remains the driving force of the book. Despite the pain they encounter, she says she was always writing toward the final line in the book: “Let’s try to love the world again.”

Praise for Mischling

Mischling is a paradox. It’s a beautiful novel about the most odious of crimes, it’s a deeply researched act of remembrance that somehow carries the lightness of a fairy tale, and it’s a coming-of-age story about children who aren’t allowed to come of age. If your soul can survive the journey, you’ll be rewarded by one of the most harrowing, powerful, and imaginative books of the year.”—Anthony Doerr, author of New York Times bestseller All The Light We Cannot See

“[A] painfully startling debut.” —Library Journal (Pre-pub Alert)

“Affinity Konar’s Mischling is a tale of courage, courageously told—spare and beautiful, riveting and heartrending. Half of me wanted to linger over every page, the other half insisted I race ahead. It’s a case of extraordinary storytelling from first page to transcendent last.”—David Wroblewski, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

“Affinity Konar is an astonishing and fearless writer whose great gift to us is this book. With incantatory magic, she marches through the most nightmarish of landscapes, swinging her light.”—Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia

“Affinity Konar’s Mischling is a piercing novel written with chin-up virtuoso. The prose is dazzling, and the story of this twin is moving and searing, and as powerful as the best mythic stories of the masters of old.”—Chigozie Obioma, author of The Fishermen

“Konar has woven a masterful and poignant account of a pair of twin sisters who cannot be separated, even by the cruelest hand of fate. Her prose is mystical and delicately poetic, and she uses her manifold gifts to tell a deeply engaging story of fortitude and triumph. Bravo.”—Lucette Lagnado, author of Children of the Flames and The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit

“Affinity Konar has invented a language. It’s sonorous, Samuel Beckett, this is literature for the superhuman: reading it makes us greater than we are.” —Lydia Millet, author of Sweet Lamb of Heaven

Affinity Konar was raised in California. She has an MFA in fiction from Columbia University. 

Photo by Gabriela Michanie

Event date: 
Thursday, September 8, 2016 - 7:30pm
Event address: 
1818 N Vermont Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Mischling Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316308106
Availability: Not in stock. Available To Order.
Published: Lee Boudreaux Books - September 6th, 2016