Author: Hans-Ulrich Treichel
Genre: Literary Fiction
Number of Pages: 136
Lost is a slim but affecting little novel about a boy’s life that’s overshadowed by his parents’ grief for his missing brother. At the end of World War II, the unnamed protagonist’s mother is raped by Russian soldiers and, fearing they are going to kill her and her husband, she hands her infant off to a random woman in a horde of fleeing civilians.
Years later, they have another son but can’t stop agonizing over the one they lost. The main character is jealous and feels ignored, especially when the parents undergo genetic testing in hopes of being reunited with the missing boy, Arnold. The protagonist’s emotions were understandable, and I didn’t find him to be a particularly unsympathetic character.
He never even knew his brother- how could he be invested in him when he was all his parents thought about? From the beginning it becomes apparent that they’re going around in circles but the mom and dad, especially the mom, refuse to give up hope. This is heart-wrenching but also frustrating, because they have a son right there with them who needs to be affirmed and they’re neglecting him to chase after Arnold.
I’ve never read a book with a premise like this before and the crisp, matter-of-fact prose gives it an almost childlike quality, even though it’s told in retrospect. It really makes you think about how all-consuming and destructive false hope is. It’s better to know that a person you love is dead than go on for years in limbo, like the family does. The ending is ambiguous and somewhat abrupt, leaving the reader to consider the why of it all. Overall, not a mind-blowing read but worthwhile for fans of international literature.