Writing this review in the first week in November, I look at the calendar and note that we are a few days away from the seventy-ninth anniversary of Kristallnacht, when, over the two days of 9–10 November 1938, at the instigation of Joseph Goebbels, there was a nationwide pogrom against German Jews that saw synagogues, business premises, and private homes ransacked. At least ninety people were killed, perhaps many more. It was a sign of things to come.
A.S. Patrić’s new novel, Atlantic Black, is set – although this isn’t mentioned in the book – about seven weeks after these events, on an ocean liner in the mid-Atlantic on New Year’s Eve of 1938, by which time many people could already see the blackness that 1939 would bring to the world. ‘Anytime I hear that date,’ Patrić said in a recent interview, ‘for me it’s a shorthand for catastrophe, for cataclysm.’ The symbolic structure of this book is simple and strong: characters of mixed nationalities are all at sea, crossing a world on the eve of destruction.