Last night we celebrated the publication of Nine Love Letters by Gerald Jacobs at Daunt Books in Marylebone High Street, in the presence of an enthusiastic crowd of friends and admirers. Here is the text of my short address, on this memorable occasion.
Today we are gathered here to mark the publication of Nine Love Letters. It is to me an important occasion for a variety of reasons. Firstly, the book depicts the legacy of conflict in particular where human beings are subject to brutality and heartache, the likes of which tears families apart and inflicts painful memories that never mellow or disappear with the passage time. I have been through that myself.
Secondly, the stories are partly in the form of love letters that often bring a torrent of tearful reactions for their sensibility and earth-moving grief, where love surpasses the very essence of shattered lives and leaves the reader in a state of serious contemplation.
Thirdly, having read the manuscript after the passing away of my beloved wife, Maria, I felt an overwhelming emotion that simply rocked my whole being and I found myself moved to the core. These stories loomed high in my psyche and the grief they propelled intertwined with mine to have a much greater effect.
Gerald Jacobs wrote the novel with a deft touch one rarely sees, ensuring that the stories are not only kept within the realm of reality but that they are also without any political connotations.
Yusuf Haroun and Anna Weisz grew up more than 1,500 miles apart, in different communities with distinct loves, lives and interests. They are as different as people can be but the one thing they share—their religion—means they are both in mortal danger.
When Yusuf marries his bride, Farah, in their native Baghdad, a promising life is ahead of him. But while he and Farah are away on honeymoon, Jewish life in Baghdad is brought to a sudden, savage end, with devastating consequences.
In Budapest, Anna Weisz dreams of a successful career in medicine like her father. She is bright, sensitive and full of wonder. Anna has everything to live for, until two men unexpectedly appear at the door of her family’s apartment one day with disturbing intentions.
As the brutality and horror of Nazi rule is brought to bear on the two families, the surviving members flee to England where, one day, a chance encounter changes their fates forever.
While they face the challenges, upheavals and horrors of the twentieth century and its legacy, their loves and tragedies are described with subtle elegance. Epic in scale but always sharp in focus, Nine Love Letters is a poignant and tender novel about the enduring power of love across generations and a testament to the strength of the human heart.
Gerald Jacobs deserves as wide a public as possible for this absorbing chef-d’œuvre so please pass the word around and encourage your friends to do the same. In the meantime show us the colour of your money and buy today as many copies as you can afford. For a positive display of your generosity would undoubtedly catapult this novel to greater heights.