“Hartmann and Fibich [were] metaphorically and almost physically twin souls” (8–9): in this phrase Brookner offers a key to the dual central figures in Latecomers. Their twinship is symbolized in their shared first name, Thomas, a name none too common among German Jews in the 1930s so that this co-incidence appears as more than a mere coincidence. Both had escaped to England before the war, Hartmann coming from Munich at age twelve to his aunt Marie who was married to an Englishman, while Fibich had arrived from Berlin at age seven on a Kindertransport. Both hear after the war that their parents had perished in the Holocaust. The two are “paired” (6) at the boarding school to which they are sent. Forbidden to speak German, Hartmann felt “doomed,” “doubly, even trebly an outsider,” saved only by the accident of being paired with Fibich, which gave him “the knowledge that someone else’s experience reflected his own reality” (6). From the very outset they recognize their affinity and are instinctively drawn to each other. This fortunate meeting at school initiates their bonding, which is based on a profound sense of kinship stemming from their parallel uprooting from home and family, and the necessity of coping alone in an alien environment and with a foreign language from an early age onward.
KeywordsHost Country Dramatic Action Bitter Chocolate Random Destination Indirect Discourse
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