SURVIVING DESPAIR,
A Novel About Perseverance
By: Herman Taube
Foreword: Dr. Michael Berenbaum
“Olami Press” Bethesda, MD.
278 p. $ 19.95
In the list of his many published prose writings, whether fiction or non-fiction, Herman Taube’s “SURVIVING DESPAIR” will surely rank as one of his most significant, meaningful, memorable, moving and beautiful creative efforts. That it is a work produced in the late years of his life that still bristles with youthful energy and an ever-enriching imaginative capacity, is in itself an accomplishment of note.

The front matter of the book includes the author’s Acknowledgments, and in it will be found the following two sentences: “This love story is a chronicle of actual events lived by survivors of macabre times. . . . . This story is a memorial and testimony to the many who died and to those few who survived and were able to escape Poland after World War II to the DP Camps in Germany and Austria, to find freedom, happiness and love in this blessed country, the USA.” These are words in the typically direct and simple, yet eloquent use of the English language that is the telltale mark of Herman’s writing in his prose and poetry-despite the fact that it is not his mama loshen.

Taube identifies this work as A Novel About Perseverance; however, it is more than what the word “novel” usually connotes. Indeed, I contend that it is most appropriate and apt to conceive of it as a docu-novel. As the principal reasons/arguments that support this contention I delineate the following:

Most significantly, it documents the Holocaust and post-Holocaust real lives of the principal protagonist and the other main characters who were all involved in and shared similar experiences as his. Their very lives were intertwined in horrific tragedies, in immeasurable personal losses, as lovers and ultimately as redemptive from mind-twisting and soul-searing memories. Though these could never be erased, their effects were mitigated by love and acts of human kindnesses bestowed upon them by found family members and a circle of friends and associates.

Also of importance, it documents in micro historical detail the places, the actors, the events, and the institutions that provide the essential framework and setting against which and within which the revelations of the narrative are unraveled and revealed. In this respect the documentary aspects of the novel are the product of and authenticated by the sheer scholarship it represents and the indefatigable, yet emotion-laden, research efforts undertaken by Herman Taube.

One should not, however, slide into over-involvement with a concern for the documentary characteristics of the story at the expense of neglecting the heart-stirring features of the narrative and the humaneness as well as the strengths and weakness of the story’s driving characters as portrayed by the author. There is pathos aplenty, and many dramatic and traumatic incidents emerge that are heart rending and mind bending. Herman’s presentation of them, however, is marked by his usual economic use of words, by his direct but descriptively reserved style, and by his avoiding the use of the bombastic language often resorted to by other contemporary writers of fiction.

This most recent literary accomplishment of Herman Taube is simply a beautiful and moving read. No reader who has loved and been loved and who has a genuine spark of humanity in his soul will escape the sensation of seeing many passages in the narrative blurred because of tearful eyes. I readily admit that at numerous places in the story, I succumbed to the need for taking pause in my reading. Such was a necessity in order to restore the shattered equilibrium and composure of mind and body that were shattered by the tears that flowed from my eyes, and from the tightness of chest and choking in the throat that overwhelmed me.

Seymour Mann