“On October 13, 1991, my grandparents killed themselves.”
The new memoir An Exclusive Love (originally published in German) is exactly what this opening sentence advertises: An account of the last day in the lives of two Holocaust survivors–the author’s grandparents.
You might expect a shocking follow-up–loaded with gore or drama–to the incendiary first line, but it doesn’t come, not right away. Instead, Adorján issues a flowing, poetic description of a normal weekend in her grandparents’ house. She describes their usual Sunday routine, the ordinary objects around the house that tell stories about the lives they created for themselves.
There are no chapters or sections in An Exclusive Love. Adorján intersperses personal recollections and her grandparents’ stories–first meeting in Nazi Europe while both were on the run, escaping Budapest in the Communist revolts of the 1950s, falling in love. But when asked about the family they left behind inWorld War II, Adorján’s grandmother would dismiss any questions: “They lived, they’re not alive now, so let’s talk about something more cheerful.”
Adorján treats her grandparents’ suicide with the same detachment. As the event gets closer, she slips into journalistic detail, clipped of all emotion. It should make us feel distanced from the event, but the opposite is true: It invites us to establish our own curiosity about the couple, making us thirst for more details. Adorján doesn’t question her grandparents’ motive, and she doesn’t linger on their decision. They’ve lived a full life, she explains, and they wanted to end it on their own terms, together.