Aussie Writing Review: All That I Am by Anna Funder
We now return to our regularly scheduled broadcast.
Late last month (or was it early this month? Time folds in on itself these days...) Anna Funder's All That I Am was named the winner of the 2012 Miles Franklin Literary Award. The sophomore novel from Funder (whose first novel was Stasiland), All That I Am follows the plight of exiled Jewish Socialists Ruth, Dora, Hans and the writer Ernst Toller during the early 1930s and the beginning of Hitler's regime through the lens of Ruth's remembrances as an old woman in the early 2000s. A poetic and slightly cynical novel, Funder has created a world of stark insight and through her characters she delivers a number of truisms on love, loss and the nature of human relationships tested by adversity.
It is a stunning novel, and there is no doubt in my mind that it is deserving of many literary platitudes. (And coincidentally, before winning the Franklin, All That I Am also earned its writer the Barbara Jefferis Award.) Funder herself is eloquent and intelligent. To read her Franklin acceptance speech and giggle at the backhanded comments she makes about the loathsome Fifty Shades trilogy, please click here.
What makes All That I Am all the more haunting is its basis in reality. Dora, Ruth and Ernst Toller were all real people. The novel has been meticulously researched, and the character of Ruth (as you will read in the acknowledgement) was also a friend of the authors until her death in 2001. No wonder the pages are tinged with sadness, and the feelings of loss so well-captured. For any lover of history (or any student of modern history of my generation, for surely we are all still well versed in the curricula on Nazi Germany) the novel slides neatly into established facts. Sources such as Richard J. Evans supply grounded dates and names which associate Funder's narrative with the 'known' history.