The Absent Moon
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“A profoundly emotional book, and a brave one.” —The New Yorker
A literary sensation in Brazil, Luiz Schwarcz’s brave and tender memoir interrogates his ordeal of bipolar disorder in the context of a family story of murder, dispossession, and silence—the long echo of the Holocaust across generations
When Luiz Schwarcz was a child, he was told little about his grandfather and namesake, Láios—“Luiz” in Hungarian. Only later in life did he learn that his grandfather, a devout Hungarian Jew, had defied his country’s Nazi occupiers by holding secret religious services in his home. After being put on a train to a German death camp with his son André, Láios ordered André to leap from the train to freedom at a rail crossing, while Láios himself was carried on to his death. What Luiz did know was that his father André, who had emigrated to Brazil, was an unhappy and silent man. Young Luiz assumed responsibility for his parents’ comfort, as many children of trauma do, and for a time he seemed to be succeeding: he blossomed into the family prodigy, eventually growing into a groundbreaking literary publisher in São Paulo. He found a home in the family silence—a home that he filled with books and with reading.
But then, at a high point of outward success, Luiz was brought low by a devastating mental breakdown. The Absent Moon is the story of his journey to that point and of his journey back from it, as Luiz learned to forge a more honest relationship with his own mind, with his family, and with their shared past. The culmination of that path is this extraordinary book, which is beautiful, tragic, noble, piercingly honest, and ultimately redemptive—the product of a lifetime’s reflection, given powerful literary shape in the refiner’s fire by a master storyteller.