The question arises because I have spent the last two and one-half months working on the first draft of a novel tentatively entitled .. are you ready?…1946: A Novel. I already know that the title is pretty lame. Other than identifying the year in which the story takes place, it tells the prospective reader absolutely nothing. No hint as to whether this is a story about post-war America or, if so, what aspects of that history are pertinent. The setting could be Europe, or Africa, or Asia for all anyone would know.. In this working title, there’s no hint as to whether this is a story of a romance, of a family tragedy, of a refugee from the Holocaust, or of a coming of age, no hint as to the identity of the protagonists or the type of conflicts they encounter, no hint as to whether this is a mystery, historical fiction, police procedural, horror story, or comedy. I will concede that the story attempts to be many of the things I just mentioned, but not all.
I’ll say a few things about 1946: A Novel and what I am trying to accomplish. It’s an important year as the world tries to recover from a horrific war and Hitler’s annihilation of 6,000,000 Jews. It’s a year where momentous changes are still in the works, and the world discovers that its serious problems have not really ended at all. It’s a year when homecoming soldiers and refugees try to renew their lives and when war widows try to address the lingering grief and pain of loneliness. It’s a year when people try to work through the guilt they feel, guilt for having survived when many others did not, guilt for not being in the right place at the right time, guilt for having stood by doing nothing, guilt for hiding instead of fighting, guilt for killing instead of turning away, guilt for taking advantage, and guilt for being unable to save lives.
The year 1946 was four years before I was born. My parents, who’d known each other for eight years by then, had not yet become engaged. My father and uncles returned from long absences during the war, but thankfully returned in remarkably good physical and mental shape. My grandparents, who had endured the agony of the children fighting a war, were able to breathe more easily and sleep better at night. Cousins-to-be became conceived in short order. The stage was being set for my arrival. How important was that?
We write about the things that have meaning in our lives.
The story involves in large part Nicolas (“Nikki”) Covo. Read four other stories about him in “To Hide in Athens and Other Stories.”