Hi, everyone! It's Amber from A little pink in the Cornfields, and I’m filling in for Emily today to discuss the third section of The Invisible Bridge.
I have a small confession. When I first agreed to write a guest post for Emily earlier this month, I had no doubt that I would be able to read this book and be ready to discuss the third section. Then the first week rolled by… and I didn’t get any reading done. Then the second week… and by the beginning of this week, I panicked a little. I didn’t want to not be able to follow through with this commitment!
Luckily, classes ended last week and all I had to do this week was substitute teach two days. The students were watching a movie, so I had lots of time to read! I’m so glad I did, because I began to really get into the book!
If it wasn’t for that commitment I don’t think I would have read this far in the book. The first part read a little slow for me, and typically when that happens I tend to put the book down and move on to something else. Halfway through The Invisible Bridge I found myself getting extremely attached to Andras and Klara, and their extraordinary relationship, as well as all of the other people in their lives, so I’m glad I didn’t give up on them.
I’m kind of wishing I hadn’t read the reviews of this book on Goodreads, because I’m constantly bracing myself for something that is going to make me cry. So far, I haven’t cried, but I have come close. I’m almost done with the third section and should start the fourth and final section today!
1. Despite the grim circumstances, Andras and Mendel produce satirical newspapers in the labor camps. What do the excerpts from The Snow Goose (p. 331), The Biting Fly (pp. 360–61), and The Crooked Rail (p. 437) show about the strategies that helped laborers preserve their humanity and their sanity? What other survival techniques do Andras and his fellow laborers develop?
These newspapers they wrote and illustrated showed that despite the dire situation they were in, they could still find humor in everyday life and knew this was important for their own mental health. I think other survival techniques the laborers developed were writing letters home and looking forward to letters from home. I think after awhile they learned that they would need to keep quiet and work hard if they wanted to be left alone from the generals in charge.
2. General Martón in Bánhida (pp. 399–402), Captain Erdó, and the famous General Vilmos Nagy in Turka all display kindness and compassion. Miklós Klein engages in the tremendously dangerous work of arranging emigrations for fellow Jews (pp. 422–23). What motivates each of them to act as they do?
I think people like Klein were very intuitive and realistic about what is happening and what could happen while others around them were trying to be optimistic. I was really surprised during the part General Marton discharged Andras. I was really preparing myself for something bad to happen and was cringing before I needed to. I’m very happy to see that things turned out well for Andras and he was able to go home two weeks early.
3. The Holocaust and other murderous confrontations between ethnic groups can challenge the belief in God. "(Andras) believed in God, yes, the God of his fathers, the one to whom he'd prayed ... but that God, the One, was not One who intervened in the way they needed someone to intervene just then. He had designed the cosmos and thrown its doors open to man, and man had moved in ... The world was their place now" (p. 432). What is your reaction to Andras's point of view? Have you read or heard explanations of why terrible events come to pass that more closely reflect your personal beliefs?
I think it would be very hard to be in Andras’ shoes and not feel this way, to not question your belief in God and his existence. I think his reaction is very human and should be expected. As for why I think terrible things happen, well, my explanation is pretty religious. I don’t tend to get very religious on the Internet, but it is my answer. There’s evil in the world simply because of the fall of Adam and Eve. It is very difficult to say what you would think or feel in a situation like this, it is very unfathomable and hard to comprehend. I would like to say that I would keep my faith, but I don’t know if that is true.
4. In Budapest, the Lévi and Hász families sustain themselves with small pleasures, daily tasks at home and, in the case of the men, working at the few jobs still available to Jews (pp. 352–55, pp. 366–77, pp. 405–10). Are they driven by practical or emotional needs, or both? Does the attempt to maintain ordinary life represent hope and courage, or a tragic failure to recognize the ever-encroaching danger? What impact do the deprivations and degradations imposed by the Germans have on the relationship between the families? Which characters are the least able or willing to accept the threats to their homeland and their culture?
I think both families are trying to stay as optimistic as possible and enjoy the little they have left. I think in the back of their mind they know it is going to get a lot worse, but are unsure what to do about it – if anything at all! I think the attempt to maintain ordinary life is a natural defense mechanism and survival tactic. I think they knew that more danger was approaching, but how could they leave? I thought many times during these parts that if I were in their shoes, I would just leave! Go to America or somewhere far away from Europe – but, it’s not that simple. I think the depravations and degradations are absolutely driving an even wider wedge between two families that were already very different and split down the middle in terms of class and privilege.
5. What are you thoughts from section three?
During this section the book really began to pick up for me. I wanted to know what was going to happen to the Levi and Hasz families – as painful as that might be. I also began to really question my choice in reading another book about the Holocaust this year. I have read so many, and although I enjoy learning more about WWII, it is heavy and hard to read at times.
Thank you so much Amber! Next week we will finish up on The Invisible Bridge.
Our book for January is going to be State of Wonder by Ann Patchett and I do not have it in my posession yet, but will tell you that we are going to discuss the first half on January 13th and the second half/whole book on January 27th. Will let you know more exact details when the book is in front of me! ;)