Fiction HQ, Australia 2019
This historical novel is based on the life and deeds of Rezsö Kasztner, a controversial figure who saved over a thousand Hungarian Jews on a rescue train in 1944.
His fictional equivalent is Miklós Nagy and much of the detail is imagined but the significant plot details are taken from history including the meetings with Nazis Eichmann and Becher.
There is a contemporary Australian story running parallel with the World War 2 setting – that of Annika, her mother and grandmother, a lifetime of secrets and a personal quest of discovery, which includes not just a love story but an exploration of modern Israel and the negative attitudes of some modern Israelis to the holocaust victims.
Diane Armstrong is a child Holocaust survivor who came to Australia with her parents from Poland in 1948. Perhaps it is needless to say that The Collaborator is thus written with the passion of lived experience and family stories.
By skillfully passing us between time zones and geographies, Diane Armstrong manages to keep the novel pacey without losing either story detail or a necessary focus on character. We do become invested in Annika’s search for truth and for personal contentment whilst at the same time understanding her delicacy in handling the secret of her grandmother.
Accounts of the trial of Nagy which Annika researches, her visits to the Holocaust Museum in Budapest and her conversations with people from war time Budapest neatly tie the two time periods together. The interweaving is unforced. At the same time, a spotlight is directed upon the big picture of international machinations, a story not always told, which impacted so terribly on the lives of individuals and whole populations of Jews.