Stephan always liked writing, and especially loved telling his children stories.
“I was always starting books – I was the king of great beginnings – but I could never finish a one. There was always the pretext of my fulltime job and the children, and I would put the manuscript away after 60 or 70 pages. Then I realised the kids had grown up, so if I wanted to write a novel, the time had come.”
He found a press clipping about a famous Jewish scientist, and thought he could spin a story around him.
“I wrote about him for two years, then realised I needed an outside voice, and found Lilya. Once she became the protagonist it was easy.”
Who is Stephan Abarbanell
Date of birth: 1957 in Brunswick, but grew up in Hamburg.
Education: Secondary school in Hamburg. University in Hamburg, Tubingen and Berkeley, USA: Protestant theology and general rhetoric.
Family: Wife Bettina, a literary translator; a daughter of 26, sons of 25 and 22.
The Day Job: Head of cultural department for a public regional TV and radio, responsible for the cultural affairs of the region, and some nationwide programmes.
Interests: Classical music. “I’m always searching for new interpretations of standard works.”
Favourite Writers: William Faulkner; Thomas Woolf; Ross Thomas; Thomas Mann.
Second Novel: “I’m in the process, about half way through.”
Top Tip: “Don’t think about it, do it. You have to work on the text 2 to 3 times a week. It doesn’t matter what you do; you can read it, edit it, or write it, but you have to deal with the text constantly.”
The Debut: Displaced. John Murray: €15.83 Kindle: €13.89.
It’s 1946 in Jerusalem, and Elias Lind refuses to accept that his brother, a scientist, died in a concentration camp. He persuades Lilya, a Jewish resistance fighter to search for him. As she traverses the devastation of post-war Europe, she realises someone else is in pursuit.
“There’s not been much written about 1946 – there’s a gap between the war and the cold war of the sixties. I didn’t know much about the period, and thought writing about that time would be interesting.”
The Verdict: A character based thriller set amongst the dispossessed. Well researched and engrossing.
Published in The Irish Examiner on 25th March
© Sue Leonard. 2017