books > Other People’s Houses
Other People’s Houses
by lore segal
A new edition marking the 80th Anniversary of the Kindertransport.
Nine months after the Nazi occupation of Austria, 600 Jewish children assembled at Vienna station to board the first of the kindertransports bound for Britain. Among them was ten year old Lore Segal.
For the next seven years, she lived as a refugee in other people’s houses, moving from the Orthodox Levines in Liverpool, to the staunchly working class Hoopers, to the genteel Miss Douglas and her sister in Guildford. Few understood the terrors she had fled, or the crushing responsibility of trying to help her parents gain a visa. Amazingly she succeeds and two years later her parents arrive; their visa allows them to work as domestic servants – a humiliation for which they must be grateful.
In Other People’s Houses Segal evokes with deep compassion, clarity and calm the experience of a child uprooted from a loving home to become stranded among strangers.
First published in serial form in The New Yorker in the early 1950s, and as an autobiographical novel in 1958. This is a new edition with an afterword – philosophically astute and beautifully written – by Lore Segal in 2018.
Lore Segal is interviewed in the 2000 Academy award-winning documentary documentary Into the Arms of Strangers, Written and directed by Mark Jonathan Harris, produced by Deborah Oppenheimer, narrated by Judi Dench.
For nine months prior to World War II, in an act of mercy unequalled anywhere else before the war, Britain conducted an extraordinary rescue mission, opening its doors to over 10,000 Jewish and other children from Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia. These children, or Kinder (sing. Kind), as they came to be known, were taken into foster homes and hostels in Britain, expecting eventually to be reunited with their parents. The majority of them never saw their families again.
“A brilliant novel in the form of a memoir.” New York Times
Observer review by Oliver Bullough June 2018
“Refugees are often talked about, but rarely listened to. From Washington to Budapest, we hear a lot about the immigrants plural, but too little from the immigrant singular. And that is why this novel is so moving: a refugee takes the microphone and puts herself at the centre of her own story. It was first published 54 years ago and yet feels as timely as any book I’ve read this year…If you translate her beautiful, elliptical prose today’s terms, her story becomes both radical and unsettling…the fact that Segal survived in Britain, then flourished in the US, is an example of how things could be in a more generous world, and antidote to 2018.”