Felice: A Travelogue
Robert Harlow´s sixth novel is FELICE A Travelogue, first published in 1985 by Oolichan Books. Re-published now in a different format by Xlibris, it is available at xlibris.com; www.Amazon.com; and from Barnes and Noble at www.BN.com. Links to these sites are available here. Prices differ at all three locations.
The year was 1981 when Felice Gentry, housewife, mother and a woman recovering from a hysterectomy, set out with her dentist husband to visit old university friends who have been recently posted to the Canadian Embassy in Warsaw. They travel by ship and arrive just as the Walesa-Solidarity revolution is beginning to peak.
But the past is still strongly there and has not yet let go of the present. The Communists continue to rule, Big Brother Russia lurks menacingly just beyond the horizon, and ZOMO, the police force charged with keeping the regime secure, continues its deadly work.
Taken on a visit to Auschwitz (called a museum now), Felice has an almost fatal encounter with returning wartime prisoner a woman who haunts FELICE A Travelogue almost from its opening pages and later, sick from her adventure and the meaning of Auschwitz taught her by the woman who nearly killed her in the camp´s worst dungeon, a rebellious Felice blunders into the purview of the ZOMO police. In their hands, she encounters another kind of violence, less life-threatening than Auschwitz, but her treatment there brings out in her physical and mental resources she didn´t know she possessed.
Without language there can be no meaning, no deliberative action. For Felice, her time in Poland is, finally, a struggle to find vocabulary enough to let her deal with the new (to her) real world that she didn´t know existed before her visit to Warsaw.
By the end of the book, Felice´s search has caused enough havoc that the embassy has her and her husband put on an aircraft and flown back to Canada. More in wonderment than in disgrace, Felice returns home. But she does not go back to her former life. She is a changed person, tough-minded in a way that upsets her three grown children, but still loving and, perhaps, even heroic.
This is the author´s favourite creation. It is based - loosely, of course - on a trip a trip to Poland similar to Felice´s. He was a WWll flier, and for him, no peacetime experience has been more indelible or more meaningful than the time he spent at Auschwitz in August, 1981.
© Robert Harlow 2001 - 2012