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Ballantine Books


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New York Times bestselling author Isabel Allende is best known for such classic works of fiction as “The House of the Spirit,” “Eva Luna” and “The Long Petal of Sea.” The Chilean-born author’s latest novel, “The Wind Knows My Name” (Ballantine Books), draws parallels between Jewish children sent to safety by their families during World War II and Latin American children separated from their parents while trying to enter the United States.

Read the excerpt below, and don’t miss Rita Brewer’s interview with Isabel Allende. “CBS News Sunday Morning” May 28!


“The Wind Knows My Name” Isabel Allende

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Adlers

Vienna, November 1938

A sense of misfortune hung in the air. From the wee hours of the morning, a menacing breeze swept through the streets, whistling between buildings, forced in through cracks under doors and windows.

Rudolf Adler muttered to himself in an attempt to lighten his mood. But he couldn’t blame the weather for the tightness in his chest, which he’d been feeling for months now.

The stench of fear, like rust and rotting garbage, clung to his nostrils. Neither his pipe tobacco nor his lemon-scented aftershave could mask it. The stench of fear wafted through the air that afternoon, making him dizzy and nauseous. He decided to turn away the patients left in his waiting room and close early. His assistant was surprised and asked if he was sick. He had worked with the doctor for eleven years and had never known him to shirk his duties. He was a punctual, methodical man.

“Nothing serious, just a cold, Frau Goldberg. I’ll go home and rest,” he replied.

They cleaned the office and sterilized the equipment, then said goodbye at the door as they did every evening, not suspecting that they would never see each other again. Frau Goldberg headed for the streetcar stop and Rudolf Adler walked the few blocks to the pharmacy at his usual brisk pace, cap in one hand and doctor’s bag in the other, his shoulders slumped. The pavement was wet and the sky was overcast. It was drizzling and he predicted that he would soon see one of those autumn showers that had always engulfed him without an umbrella. He had walked these streets a thousand times and knew them by heart, but he never stopped admiring his city, one of the most beautiful places in the world, with its baroque and art nouveau buildings in harmony. The magnificent trees that had begun to drop their leaves. , an equestrian statue in a neighborhood square, a bakery window display with delicate pastry spreads, and an antique shop brimming with curiosities. But that afternoon he barely lifted his eyes from the sidewalk. He had the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Disturbing rumors had begun that morning with news of an attack in Paris: a German diplomat shot five times, a young Polish Jew. Spokesmen for the Third Reich demanded retribution.

Ever since that March, when Germany had occupied Austria and the Nazi Wehrmacht had brought its military glory and conditions to a jubilant, excited crowd in the heart of Vienna, Rudolf Adler had been haunted by fear. His troubles had begun a few years earlier and only intensified as Nazi power was consolidated through financial aid and a growing stockpile of weapons. Hitler used terrorism as a political tactic, capitalizing on discontent over economic woes following the humiliating defeat in World War I in 1929 and the Great Depression. In 1934, Austrian Chancellor Engelbert Dolphus was assassinated in a failed government coup, and eight hundred people have been killed since then. Others were killed in various attacks. The Nazis intimidated their opponents, created chaos, and pushed Austria to the brink of civil war. By early 1938, internal violence was so intolerable that Germany from across the border pressed to annex the troubled country as one of its provinces. Despite the concessions that the Austrian government made to German demands, Hitler ordered the invasion. The Nazi Party had laid the groundwork for an invading force to be fought with open arms by the majority of the population. The Austrian government surrendered and two days later Hitler himself entered Vienna in triumph. The Nazis soon gained complete control. The opposition was declared illegal. German laws and repression by the SS and Gestapo, as well as anti-Semitic policies, were immediately enforced.

Rudolph’s wife, Rachel, who had always been rational and practical without the slightest tendency toward destructive thinking, was now nearly paralyzed by anxiety and functioned only with the help of medication. The two tried to keep their son Samuel in the dark about what was happening, to protect his innocence, but the boy, who was about to turn six, was already an adult. He observed, listened and understood without asking questions. Rudolph initially prescribed his wife the tranquilizers he used to treat anxious patients, but when they seemed to have no effect, he turned to other, more potent drops, which she were obtained in opaque unmarked bottles. He could use sedatives like his wife, but he wouldn’t risk jeopardizing his professional intelligence.

The drops were secretly supplied to him by Peter Steiner, a pharmacist and friend of many years. Adler was the only doctor Steiner trusted with his family’s health, and no amount of government edicts restricting interaction between Aryans and Jews could change their respect for one another. In recent months, however, Steiner had been forced to avoid Adler in public, as he could not afford any trouble with the neighborhood Nazi committee. In the past, they played thousands of games of poker and chess, exchanged books and newspapers, and took regular hiking and fishing trips together to escape their wives, as they joked, and Steiner’s. Case in point, to escape from her children’s gang. . Adler no longer participated in poker games in the back room of Steiner’s pharmacy. The pharmacist met Adler at the back door of his shop and dispensed the medicine for Rachel without registering it on the books.

Before the accession, Peter Steiner had never questioned Adler’s roots and considered the doctor as Austrian as he was. He knew the family was Jewish, as were 190,000 other Austrians, but that meant nothing to him. He was agnostic; The Christianity he had been brought up with seemed to him as irrational as all other religions, and he knew that Rudolf Adler felt the same way, even though he adopted some Jewish customs out of respect for his wife. was maintained. Rachel felt it was important that her son be raised in Jewish community and traditions. On Friday evenings, the Steiners were often invited to Shabbat at Adler’s home. Rachel and Leah, her sister-in-law, spared no detail: the best tablecloths, new candles, a fish recipe handed down from a grandmother, fresh bread and plenty of wine. Rachel was close to Leah, a young widow with no children. Leah was devoted to her brother Rudolph’s small family, and although Rachel begged the woman to go with them, she insisted on living alone, visiting often. Leah was outgoing and participated in various programs at the synagogue to help those in need in the community. Rudolf was the only brother she had left, as the youngest had emigrated to a kibbutz in Palestine, and Samuel was her only nephew. Rudolph presided over Shabbat prayers, as was expected of him as the head of the household. Laying his hands on Samuel’s head, he prayed to God to bless and protect him, to give him grace and peace. On more than one occasion Rachel caught a wink between her husband and Peter Steiner after prayer, but she let it slide, knowing it was not meant as a joke but simply a union between two unbelievers. It was a hint.

The Adlers belonged to the secular and educated middle class that characterized Viennese society in general and Jewish society in particular. Rudolph explained to Peter that for centuries his people had been discriminated against, persecuted and banished from many countries, which was why they valued education more than material wealth. They may be robbed of their belongings, as has happened many times throughout history, but no one can take away their intellectual assets. The title of doctor was more valuable than wealth in the bank. Rudolf belonged to a family of artisans, proud to count a physician among them. This profession gave him prestige and authority, although in his case it did not actually translate to material wealth. Rudolf Adler was not a sought-after surgeon or professor at the prestigious University of Vienna, but a family physician, hard-working and generous, who treated more than half of his patients free of charge.

Excerpt from “The Wind Knows My Name” by Isabel Allende. Copyright ¬© 2023 Isabel Allende. All rights reserved. No part of this extract may be reproduced or republished without the written permission of the publisher.


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