Lily Brett

It is no secret that Lily Brett has mined her past and her family history in her fiction. Her parents, like those of her current alter ego, Lola Bensky, were survivors of the Łódź ghetto and Auschwitz concentration camp; Lola, like the author, was born in a displaced persons’ camp before her family emigrated to Australia. Lola, a chubby baby, was possibly the only plump person in a camp whose other inmates were mainly Jewish survivors of Nazi death camps. Save quoting at length, it is impossible to convey the inflections that render humorous such an observation.

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There are now 10,000 books written about Auschwitz. About the Holocaust there must be many more tens of thousands. Lily Brett is one of the great readers and collectors of these books. Her novels and poems are awash with Holocaust details and with an obsessive sense of responsibility for this impossible knowledge. Impossible because the horrific details cannot be held in the mind for long. In Too Many Men, the Holocaust stories do not come with the poised and philosophical moral gravity of an Inga Clendinnen, nor with the outrageous sensationalism of a Darville but with a doggedness and astonishment that are finally powerfully effective.

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