“Nobody’s Son: A Memoir” by Mark Slouka is a heartbreaking story of a family, created through a collection of memories: a story of refugees, of parents, of a child (Mark Slouka) watching his mother go mad because of the traumas of her childhood, the loneliness of exile, and a 40-year love affair with her true love that might have saved her.
The author traces the lives of his parents from Brno, Czechoslovakia, where they watched Hitler’s motorcade enter the city, lived through the wartime Nazi occupation, barely survived and fled the Communist coup in 1948. Then, as refugees, they moved from Innsbruck, Austria, to Sydney and finally to the U.S. where the parents, Znenek and Olga eventually settled. They had nothing – no home, no country, and spoke a language that was not understood by others. They settled in, adapted, and got by. It was the place they landed, but their roots were elsewhere. The displacement was always there.
This is a powerful memoir that is both a reflection on the power of history to shape individual lives and of a country waiting patiently for the oppressors to leave. It is a story of political exile as well as the exile that can separate us from one another.
The author writes about some uncomfortable and dark places. This memoir is about unraveling truths, political as well as personal. This is a story of both private memory and the ravaged history of 20th century Central Europe.