Moving away from their lovely apartment in Munich isn’t nearly as wrenching an experience for Frau Greta Hahn as she had feared. Their new home is even lovelier than the one they left behind, and best of all—right on their doorstep—are some of the finest craftsmen from all over Europe. Frau Hahn and the other officers’ wives living in this small community can order anything they desire, whether new curtains made from the finest French fabrics, or furniture designed to the most exacting specifications. Life here in Buchenwald would appear to be idyllic.
Lying just beyond the forest that surrounds them—so close and yet so remote—is the looming presence of a work camp. Frau Hahn’s husband, SS Sturmbannführer Dietrich Hahn, is to take up a powerful new position as the camp’s administrator. As the prison population begins to rise, the job becomes ever more consuming. Corruption is rife at every level, the supplies are inadequate, and the sewerage system is under increasing strain.
When Frau Hahn is forced into an unlikely and poignant alliance with one of Buchenwald’s prisoners, Dr. Lenard Weber, her naïve ignorance about what is going on so nearby is challenged. A decade earlier, Dr. Weber had invented a machine: the Sympathetic Vitaliser. At the time he believed that its subtle resonances might cure cancer. But does it really work? One way or another, it might yet save a life.
A tour de force about the evils of obliviousness, Remote Sympathy compels us to question our continuing and willful ability to look the other way in a world that is once more in thrall to the idea that everything—even facts, truth and morals—is relative. A novel of devastating beauty that will leave readers shaken and exhilarated.
“Highly original and deeply researched, Catherine Chidgey’s Remote Sympathy is a powerful and disturbing study in terrible lies and the human need to believe them... Few readers will close the covers of this book unshaken.”―Annie Proulx, author of Barkskins
Catherine Chidgey’s novels have been published to international acclaim. Her first, In a Fishbone Church, won Best First Book at the NZ Book Awards and at the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (South East Asia and South Pacific). In the UK it won the Betty Trask Award and was longlisted for the Orange Prize. Her second, Golden Deeds, was a Notable Book of the Year in the New York Times and a Best Book in the LA Times. Catherine has won the Prize in Modern Letters, the Katherine Mansfield Award, the Katherine Mansfield Fellowship and the Janet Frame Fiction Prize. She lives in Ngāruawāhia, NZ, and lectures in Creative Writing at the University of Waikato. Her novel Remote Sympathy was shortlisted for the DUBLIN Literary Award and longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. Her novels The Wish Child and The Axeman’s Carnival both won the Acorn Prize for Fiction, NZ's most prestigious literary award.