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Vandervelde Downs: Fiction Speckled with European History (EUC Spring Brown Bag Lecture Series)

Event Type
European Union Center
Feb 5, 2021   12:00 pm  

In this Brown Bag lecture, Brett Ashley Kaplan, Director of the Initiative in Holocaust, Genocide, Memory Studies and Professor of Comparative and World Literature, will speak about the process of switching from academic to fictional writing in middle age and then briefly read from her two novels in progress. Dr. Kaplan publishes in Ha’aretz, The Conversation, Asitoughttobe, AJS Perspectives, Contemporary Literature, and The Jewish Review of Books; she is the author of Unwanted Beauty, Landscapes of Holocaust Postmemory, and Jewish Anxiety and the Novels of Philip Roth. She is currently working on two novels: Vandervelde Downs and Rare Stuff.

During the Second World War, the Nazi regime looted hundreds of thousands of art objects, many of which were stored in myriad places all over Europe—tunnels, castles, hovels, you name it. Vandervelde Downs and Rare Stuff touch upon these vast unethical and often unresolved thefts. Vandervelde Downs centers around a family in provincial England who set up a Vietnamese Refugee Center in 1979. Twenty years later, an usual agent/art history professor who is working on restoring looted art appears and begins interviewing the grandmother and, ahem, befriending the granddaughter, a spicy tomboy named Poppy. Rare Stuff is set largely in New York and Chicago and tells the story of a young photographer’s relationship with a Melville scholar from Guadeloupe as she begins a quest to find her lost mother inaugurated by clues left by her father, a novelist who dies suddenly leaving behind many untold stories. 

This event will be held on Zoom:


Meeting ID: 813 1848 6063

Password: 272447

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