I'm leading an online discussion of this book at the Google Group for Reading With Becky this month which means that I'm slowing down my reading pace and examining different passages more closely than I normally would. This book is so good that I could have sped through it in just a few days. Instead I'm splitting it up throughout the month so we can discuss it in reasonable chunks.
Anyway, I can across the following quote in the 2nd quarter of the book (page 114) and it has really stuck with me. The characters are a Jewish father, Albert, and his 15 year old daughter, Claudette. It is 1943 and they are in Italy, hiding in the forest from the Germans. Claudette is trying to convince her father that it is safe to go into the nearby town.
"They’re ignorant, Claudette. […] They think we poison wells! They think we murder babies and use their blood to make matzoh! They hate us–”Is it just me, or is that a powerful statement? What an amazing lesson Claudette's mother taught her. And Albert not being able to clearly remember his wife's face? Heartbreaking.
“Whenever we said ‘they,’ Mama told us to name two. […] Mama said if you can’t name two actual real people, then you’re just being prejudiced. So name two peasants who hate us. […] Mama said.”
Albert sighs. “All right,” he says, capitulating to hunger, […] and the ethical precepts of a wife whose face is more difficult to conjure as each day passes.
There is another quote I really love that can be found on page 177. It does have some profanity in it, so be forewarned. In this quote, Renzo, a Jewish Italian partisan, is talking to Don Osvaldo, a Catholic priest.
"You know what I think? Ten percent of any group of human beings are shitheads. Catholics, Jews. Germans, Italians. Pilots, priests. Teachers, doctors, shopkeepers. Ten percent are shitheads. Another ten percent – salt of the earth! Saints! Give you the shirts off their backs. Most people are in the middle, just trying to get by. […] You are a very dangerous man, Padre. You are an ordinary, decent fellow who aspires to saintliness."I'm amazed by Renzo here. The Germans are harassing and murdering Jews - Renzo's family, friends, acquaintances - yet he doesn't classify the world as Germans vs. Jews. Instead he realizes that every group of people will have it's good and it's bad. Again, is it just me, or does this quote grab you as well?