THE HAND THAT SIGNED THE PAPER book cover   The Hand that Signed the Paper
Helen Demidenko

Cover photo: Horizon Photo Library

Dustjacket synopsis:

"The Hand that Signed the Paper tells the story of Vitaly, a Urkranian peasant, who endures the destruction of his village and family by Stalin's communists. He welcomes the Nazi invasion in 1941 and willingly enlists in the SS Death Squads to take a horrifying revenge against those he perceives to be his persecutors.

"This remarkable novel, a shocking story of the hatred that gives evil life, is also an eloquent plea for peace and justice."

"astonishingly talented...with the true novelist's gift of entering into the imagination of those she is writing about." - David Marr
"A searingly truthful account of terrible wartime deeds that is also an imaginative work of extraordinary redemptive power." - Jill Kitson

First Paragraph:

As I drive down the Pacific Highway, the French are busy dropping bombs into the waters in which my nieces swim, the Americans and Iraqis are engaged in a bizarre competition to see who can destroy the world many times over most, and my uncle will soon be on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity. I wonder casually, as I turn off the main road to fill up with petrol, if Eichmann had a daughter and is she felt the same way as I do now. It is an idle question, but I toy with it as the light and darkness at sunset plays over the glittering Ampol sign. This is one petrol station where they still serve you while you sit in your car. A pimply boy walks towards me across the asphalt and asks 'how much?' and I say 'twenty dollars'. I sit in the cockpit of my car, and look at my watch. The boy takes my keys. The key ring has a cheap plastic figurine of 'Expo Oz' attached. I've had it for four years, and Expo Oz's platypus bill has very little paint left on it.

Right now, I am missing my Set Theory and Logic lecture, and will soon miss my Modern Political Ideologies lecture. I left home earlier this morning, giving Cathe a week’s rent and telling her that I was ‘going to drive down the coast to see about my uncle’. Cathe -- and a few other of my close friends -- know that I am related to the Kovalenko who has recently been charged with war crimes. That in itself is no guarantee of a trial, but the fear is real. I have confirmed to Cathe that the charges are true, and that the family is in the process of engaging a lawyer.

From the Allen and Unwin paperback edition, 1995.

This novel was the winner of the Australian/Vogel Award for 1993 and the Miles Franklin Award in 1995.

To say that this novel caused something of an uproar would be to utter one of the greatest understatements in Australian literary history. It basically split the Australian literary scene down the middle - on the one hand it was defended from the point of view of freedom to write whatever one wants; and on the other it was accused of being anti-semitic, racist and downright fascist. It subsequently came out that Demidenko was not the author's real name and she was villified for that as well.

This page and its contents are copyright © 2001-06 by Perry Middlemiss, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

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Last modified: January 26, 2006.