An extraordinary story of one woman's attempt to survive the horrors of Vichy France.
A bitter, beautiful and important book
Robert Fisk, THE INDEPENDENT
The French sensation, now in English translation.
Françoise Frenkel was a Jewish woman born in Poland and enamoured of all things literary and French. In 1921 she set up the first French-language bookshop in Berlin, recognising the craving for French culture in that city in the wake of the First World War. Her business was a success – attracting diplomats and celebrities, authors and artists. But life in Berlin for a Jewish woman and a foreigner soon became untenable.
Frenkel was forced to flee to Paris and compelled to keep moving as she attempted to survive in a world disintegrating around her. Her observations of and interactions with the French people, both those who would give her up to the Nazi authorities and those who risked their own lives and families by offering her refuge, show how humanity strives to assert itself even in the darkest times.
Frenkel's book, written with piercing clarity and sensibility in the immediate aftermath of her escape to Switzerland, was originally published in 1945 in Geneva. But only recently was a copy of this forgotten work discovered and a decision made at French publisher Gallimard to republish it, seventy years later.
Very little is known of Françoise Frenkel's subsequent life, except that she returned to live in Nice where she had spent much of her time during the war, and where she died in 1975.
No Place to Lay One's Head is the story of refugees, those fleeing terror, the world over.
With a moving preface from Nobel Prize–winning author Patrick Modiano.
Format & Editions
May 1, 2017
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I don’t know exactly when I first felt the calling to be a bookseller. As a very young girl, I could spend hours leafing through a picture book or a large illustrated tome.
My favourite presents were books, which would pile up on the shelves along the walls of my childhood bedroom.
For my sixteenth birthday, my parents allowed me to order my own bookcase. To the astonishment of the joiner, I designed and had built an armoire to be glazed on all four sides. I positioned this piece of furniture of my dreams in the middle of my bedroom.
Not wanting to spoil my delight, my mother let me be and I was able to admire my classics in the publishers’ beautiful bindings, and the modern, contemporary authors whose bindings I would lovingly choose myself, indulging my imagination.