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But You Did Not Come Back

Marceline Loridan-Ivens
Translated by Sandra Smith

A runaway bestseller in France, But You Did Not Come Back is the breathtaking, deeply moving and critically acclaimed memoir of a survivor of the Holocaust.

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In 1944, at the age of fifteen, Marceline Loridan-Ivens was arrested in occupied France, along with her father. They were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, and forcibly separated. Though he managed to smuggle one last note to her, Marceline never spoke to her father again. But You Did Not Come Back is Marceline’s letter to the father she would never know as an adult. This is a breath-taking memoir by an extraordinary woman, and a deeply moving message from a daughter to a father.

Critic Reviews

In just 100 pages, Loridan-Ivens goes to the heart of father-daughter relations; the result is a masterpiece of restraint and luminous precision . . . But You Did Not Come Back is a human chronicle of rare power.

Ian Thomson, Financial Times
Critic Reviews

But You Did Not Come Back is a letter of a lifetime. It is profound, compelling, effortless, searing. Almost every sentence is a distillation of the human capacity for suffering and survival. It is written in sinewy, spare prose that has an intensity of poetry . . . That she has been impelled to write such a difficult, discerning and unputdownable testimony is an acute reminder of the time in which we live, and a reflection of her enduring spirit.

Helen Davies, Sunday Times
Critic Reviews

This . . . book, at turns poetic, raw, beautiful and painful, takes the form of a love letter to him by his daughter . . . It would be tempting to say that her eloquent, heartbreaking testimony could sway hate-addled minds. Tempting, but it would be disrespectful to her honesty, to the enormity of what she experienced. Just read it.

Robbie Millen, The Times
Critic Reviews

This is a haunting and beautiful book, valuable not only for the first-hand experience of the worst atrocity in living history, but also for its illustration of the long-term effects of trauma, the persistence of anti-Semitism and the enduring power of love.

Leyla Sanai, Independent
Critic Reviews

Devastating . . . Loridan-Ivens writes in a plain, conversational style . . . that flows as memory does, observation and recollection in balance. It can be read at a sitting; and then asks to be read again. For even at this distance, when we think we know what happened, and what history tells us, the truth, as seen through Marceline's clear-eyed gaze, astonishes and horrifies . . . There is kindness, too, and courage in this book.

Erica Wagner, New Statesman
Critic Reviews

Very occasionally a book comes along that demands to be published. A book about pain and suffering, about cruelty and humanity, about grief and love. But You Did Not Come Back is an exquisitely written, beautifully translated and unwaveringly honest testimony; a story we will all do well never to forget.

Hannah Beckerman, Observer

Marceline Loridan-Ivens was born in 1928. She has worked as an actress, a screenwriter, and a director. She directed The Birch-Tree Meadow in 2003, starring Anouk Aimée, as well as several documentaries with Joris Ivens. Marceline died in 2018.

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