Dishing the Dirt

“How are the horrors of the Holocaust to be remembered as its last witnesses pass? Bram Presser, grandchild of Holocaust survivors Jacob and Dasa, wrestles with this question in The Book of Dirt, weaving personal history and invention in ways that push the novel form to the limits, without ever losing sight of his urgent human project…. Incorporating archival research and photographs with gripping invention, Presser doggedly pursues the truth while turning over the limits of historical inquiry and story.” The Christina Stead Prize for Fiction. Read the full citation here.

“Three books in one, The Book of Dirt is a remarkable tale of Holocaust survival, love and genealogical sleuthing by a grandson intent on finding the truth about his grandparents’ past. Like Michael Chabon’s Moonglow, it is not always clear which parts of this impressive debut are fiction and which are family history (sprinkled liberally and effectively with photographs). In essence, it doesn’t matter… Presser gradually reveals the wartime plight of his grandparents, Jakub Rand and Dasa Roubickova, and their families with visceral detail, written with a lyrical cadence borne perhaps of his musician’s innate rhythm… As he says, ‘We are all hoarders when it comes to the lives of those we loved’ and, in the end, we are left with a beautiful tale that will stay with the reader long after the book’s end.”
Scott Whitmont, Books & Publishing Magazine

“I have read many Holocaust related books – memoirs, biographies, autobiographies, accounts, fiction based on research, non-fiction…. While there is value in all these different approaches, very rarely does one find a work that is so rich and majestic in its account…. Bram Presser, in this magnificent ode to all that is lost, has tried to fill the hole that not knowing leaves.”
Justine Saidman, Director of the Sydney Jewish Writers Festival, Longing To Be: Reviews From A Serial Reader

“It is difficult to convey the breadth and nuance of this extraordinary work. It is a book about how history is made – and about who is allowed the privilege to remake it. There are echoes of Sebald’s biting honesty and Chabon’s long and rewarding vignettes. An absolute pleasure to read.”
Dave LittleReadings Monthly

“The lyrical, impassioned and culturally rich prose of The Book of Dirt, and its moral force, bears echoes of such great Jewish writers as Franz Kafka (Presser inherited his grandfather’s copy of The Trial), Elie Wiesel, Primo Levi, Isaac Bashevis Singer and Cynthia Ozick…. It is a major book, and one for our times.”
CG, The Saturday Paper 2 September 2017

“Presser has written a wonderful and original book, told in gorgeously rich, lyrically beautiful prose that is laden with history and cultural meaning.”
4.5 Stars
Melinda Woledge, Good Reading Magazine, November 2017

“For readers of Sebald it is impossible not to recall his prose narratives – Austerlitz (2001), especially – in aspects of Bram Presser’s The Book of Dirt…”
Anna MacDonald, Australian Book Review, November 2017

“”It’s really hard to do this book justice, let’s just say that The Book of Dirt is magnificent.” Lisa HillANZ LitLovers

“[A] tenderly brutal novel… a heartfelt and original attempt to bridge the ever-growing gaps between history, memory and silence.” Beejay Silcox, The Australian

“[The Book of Dirt is] always surprising and beautifully complex, and both deft and sensitive in its handling of its intertwined narratives and materials. It is an incredibly affecting book, one that lingers long after reading – and a remarkably assured debut.” Fiona Wright, The Age and Sydney Morning Herald

“… impossible to forget. Penetrating, soulful, and surprisingly welcoming, it reminded me of my own ancestors and how easy it is to sidestep the past.” Barry Scott, Australian Book Review, Publisher’s Picks 2017

“[A] profound testament to his grandfather…. Bram Presser fills in the gaps… with vivid character studies; together with poignant black and white snapshots, he brings them evocatively to life. His poetic narrative is a perfect foil for the silences of his forbears.” Mary Ann Elliot, Toowoomba Chronicle, 8 February 2018