“There were three other people present, or five, depending on whom one chooses to include. Five, let’s say, the men divided from the women according to the timeworn tradition… The ceremony lasted precisely thirty minutes, as had been agreed on well in advance, not a second longer. One of the people present announced the end in a voice as blunt as it was relieved.”
What kind of bar mitzvah lasts no more than thirty minutes? Which five people could have been in attendance, and where could such a ceremony –– if there really was a ceremony –– have taken place under these circumstances? This book has echoes of a detective trail and as Denis Hirson gradually reveals the answers, he explores the wider ancestral and political strands of his story.
We are reminded of what the world might have looked like to a thirteen-year-old boy in the Johannesburg of the 1960s. This perspective is, thanks to his daughter, set against that same boy’s adult understanding of what had happened. This is a breathtaking account of the author being confronted by his own past.