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The Book of Dirt

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  299 ratings  ·  78 reviews
They chose not to speak and now they are gone…What’s left to fill the silence is no longer theirs. This is my story, woven from the threads of rumour and legend.

Jakub Rand flees his village for Prague, only to find himself trapped by the Nazi occupation. Deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp, he is forced to sort through Jewish books for a so-called Museum of t
Paperback, 336 pages
Published August 28th 2017 by Text Publishing
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Bram Thanks! Much appreciated. Hope you enjoy it (if enjoy is the right word).
Bram I have to finish the edit first!!!

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Text Publishing
May 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The following book reviews have been shared by Text Publishing – publisher of The Book of Dirt

‘The Book of Dirt is both a loving, honest portrayal of lives that would have been erased, and an incorporation of the broader lessons of their experience into contemporary mythology. It keeps the discussion about trauma, memory, and intergenerational acts of transfer alive for those generations that follow, that risk forgetting. It is a potent achievement for a debut novel.’
Sydney Review of Books

‘A g
Cass Moriarty
Feb 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The cover of The Book of Dirt (Text Publishing 2017), the debut novel by Bram Presser, features a ring – a plain gold band – surrounded by a small pile of dirt. The ring – and the dirt – may look inconsequential, but in fact both represent significant themes of belonging, survival and connection. The Book of Dirt is Bram Presser’s story of his own Jewish history. He has taken family tales and legends, and woven these together with extensive archival research, to create a novel that is part fact, ...more
Sep 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
“I clicked on the most obvious icon, the Yad Vashem Shoah Names Database and typed in Jakub Rand. They all jumped out at me at once, an explosion of Jakub Rands, as if I had released their souls from the dusty white box that whirred innocuously beside me.”

The Book Of Dirt is the first novel by Australian author, Bram Presser. In 1996, Jakub Rand lost the will to live, mere weeks after his wife, Dasa died. Both were Jews, from Prague; both had lived in the Theresienstadt ghetto during the German
Michael Livingston
Jul 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
A moving and enthralling piece of work - part family memoir, part novel, it's as heartbreaking as you'd imagine. ...more
Jaclyn (sixminutesforme)
Feb 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: auslit
The Book of Dirt is a work of historical fiction, but based on the true story of Presser’s own grandparents and his search to find out what happened to them. His note at the end of the novel explains the factual basis, namely an article that was published about his grandfather, and then the improvisations he made based on research and correspondence he located.

I was thoroughly captivated by this novel - Presser writes so eloquently and immediately anchors the reader within the narrative. While a
Adam Rapoport
May 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
That was brilliant.

Complex without being convoluted, moving without being maudlin, the book worked for me on a number of levels, not least the prose, which was rich and literary without at all being a Nabakovian wankfest. In other words, it was a servant to the plot, characters and atmosphere, without fanfare or self-consciousness. Unlike most of my reviews.

The attempt to interweave history, memory, investigation and myth was probably more likely to go horribly wrong than right, but the fact t
Jan 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Typically I don't write reviews. Most of the books I cherish already have hundreds or thousands of them already - so what can I add? But I'm making an exception for the Book of Dirt, because it's a new release from a new author, and it is unquestionably brilliant, and (for this alone it warrants a review) it is unique.

What starts out as something of an autobiographical detective story - the author trying to sort out what happened to his grandfather during the Holocaust, and his part in the so-ca
Nicole Beaudry
Dec 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Bram Presser's The Book of Dirt is part memoir, part novel, part genealogical archeology. He scrapes away at the layers of myth and legend to come to terms with, and reveal, the time spent in Theresienstadt and Auschwitz-Birkenau by his grandfather and grandmother, Jakub Rand and Daša Roubíčková. It is a moving work, layered, piecing together family story with Jewish myth and legend. I am hard-pressed to say more about the work, because I feel, as an archivist and librarian privileged to work wi ...more
May 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
A beautiful tribute to his family. Presser has delicately woven fiction into his historical research and managed to maintain a sense of integrity which ensures his family will not be lost to memory.
Hazel Edwards
Nov 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
‘Faction’ is the dramatic technique of blending facts into readable stories, especially where there may be gaps of ignorance on the part of potential audiences or it’s just not possible to find out.
‘The Book of Dirt’ is a significant work of faction. The title refers to the little that is left of even a significant life unless memories are captured in artforms and passed on. Presser uses the term ‘golem’ and applies it as a symbol in his novel and his quest for his grandfather’s past.
Presser is
Lesley Moseley
Jun 19, 2018 rated it it was ok
Sorry to say , I had skipped too much of the 'golem' and just couldn't work out who was really his grandfather. DNF. ...more
Andrew Harris
Sep 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A masterpiece of third-generation Survivor storytelling. A delicately wrought take on the individual nuance of Holocaust experience and the tendency of the passage of time and retelling to neglect that nuance in favour of a simplistic, monolothic and homogeneous communal memory, which in turn eventually denies us the truth. Careful and instructive handling of the Diasporism vs Zionism dialectic contemporary to the historical narrative. Bram's writing channels the characters of his ancestors' los ...more
Jul 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I know part of the story is the writer's interpretation but it worked for me. ...more
Aug 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Could not put it down. Loved every page.
Joey Gremillion
Jun 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Superbly written. Mr. Presser’s narrative is stunning
Nov 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
One of the most poignant things I've ever seen is a matchbox filled with soil in the Jewish Holocaust Centre in Elsternwick.  Signage explains that this soil from the Nazi death camp where her mother was murdered, is the only token that her daughter has in remembrance.  She has no photos, nothing in her mother's handwriting, nothing that she ever wore, nothing that she ever treasured, no family recipes, nothing made by her mother's hands.  In a museum that has an emotional impact on all who visi ...more
Robert Lukins
Dec 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What a beautiful and unique thing this is.
Feb 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Deeply moving in parts, and the author’s love for his grandparents and great-grandmother is touching. And it has some beautiful passages. But very episodic and at times highly confusing in its structure. It chopped and changed between events too often and was at times hard to follow.
Aug 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Surviving a traumatic event such as the Holocaust is an incredible feat and story by itself, but what author Bram Presser has done is weaved personal family history and engaging fiction into something that transcends the normal historical fiction genre itself. The author knew that his grandfather had been in a concentration camp and had been a teacher there and survived, but then a newspaper article illuminates a more interesting (and possibly unnerving) narrative. Setting out to the uncover the ...more
Sara Vidal
Jul 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
I bought a copy when I went to the launch last year and read it in 3 days. Yes I couldn't put it down. Then, swamped by mixed emotions, I did not feel I could review it. (Jealousy?!?) My book also of holocaust history was soon to be launched and I had taken a different approach. Interestingly on reflection the parts in the book that I related to most were what I had cut out of my book as superfluous to the telling of my parents' story - the uncoverings, dead-ends, surprise discoveries - ie the ' ...more
Fiona Blond
Oct 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
There are moments when you read something so powerful but all consuming of your heart and spirit that it takes you time to come back to the real world. The Book of Dirt exported me to the place of horror and perseverance that was the war camp of the 1940's. The story was not shocking as the facts are something we are all familiar with but the storylines and way Bram Presser writes is mesmerising. I wanted to let the story go, move on to a more fun novel but I knew that I couldn't leave it alone. ...more
Oct 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Disclaimer: I know Bram
But also: Within ten pages I completed forgot I knew the author of this book

Formally playful, simultaneously tender and charged with a righteous anger. I’m floored by the soul of this book, by the yearning for history and the bitter strength of survival. We are built upon a foundation of narratives that we can’t know.

A truly beautiful book, this is going to stay with me for a very long time.
Luke Terbutt
Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I don't know how to do justice to this book except to suggest you should read it. For what you will find here is a real and, also, fictionalised grace. Bram, as part of his own tale, represents the broad atrocities of the holocaust against the facts (often hidden) and the memories (often suppressed) of his very own family who suffered through it. What he delivers is a rich, imaginative, and deeply felt account. A book at once smart, tender, funny and raw, just like the man who wrote it. ...more
Shaun Mason
Jul 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Have a read of this story - it grapples with the gaps and the omissions of the past and the difficulties we have in filling them and making sense of them. I loved it.
Sep 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
The author's journey into family history of Holocaust survivors seems difficult but absolutely worthwhile. A well written book of facts mixed with memory and imagination results in a tale of the past shaping the future for all. ...more
Callum Macdonald
Apr 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
The Book of Dirt is an immense work - moving, powerful and deeply personal. Congratulations to Bram Presser in achieving this wonderful novel - it will be remembered by many.
Oct 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
This was an undisciplined narrative, part fact, part fiction, with chapters that chopped and changed characters and time periods mid-chapter. I had to work hard to figure out who I was reading about and what time period we were in. Maddening.

Also, in his search to fill in his grand-parents story of survival, an almost impossible task, he writes in a circuitous and slow-paced style, which soon felt like a manipulation to me;" if you keep reading you might find out something about how these peopl
Jun 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
I found this book very confusing unfortunately and it was a bit of a struggle to finish. I lost the trail of the plot and the cast of characters. A mixture of fiction and non fiction but I wasn’t clear which was which. The book commences with a search to find out the truth of his grandfather’s experience of WW2 and stories of his life but I am not sure we actually discovered the answers .

At the end of the book is a glossary of Czech words and Jewish terms. Obviously would have helped if this wa
Sep 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An incredible literary achievement from a brilliantly talented Australian author. Presser writes with a unique flair and skill, uncovering the personal and the universal. His prose has a timeless quality that is without affectation. An original and singular voice casting new light on a tragic period in history. While the catalogue of existing fiction about the Holocaust is vast, the Book of Dirt covers aspects and events that may be unfamiliar to many, in a highly original way.
Oct 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical
Bram has called this fiction and it is a combination of fact and fiction. The book is both an exploration of Bram's journey through place and time to follow the story of his grandfather, holocaust survivor, Jan Randa and also Bram's imagined recreation of the lives of his grandmother, grandfather and their families. ...more
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Semi-reformed punk rocker, recovering academic, occasional criminal lawyer and one-time cartoon character, Bram Presser was born in Melbourne in 1976. He writes the blog Bait For Bookworms and is a founding member of Melbourne Jewish Book Week. His stories have appeared in Vice Magazine, The Sleepers Almanac, Best Australian Stories, Award Winning Australian Writing and Higher Arc. In 2011, Bram w ...more

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