Jacob beschliesst zu lieben is Florescu’s latest novel. Following upon biographical escapes (which his first two novels embody), Florescu’s Jacob is an expressive family saga. Beyond being a mere testament for a future, this novel is foremost about the ambiguity of birth and origin. The novel opens in an epic way, in an immediate storm that sets the course of the characters’ destiny. The Obertins, from Lorraine, settle in the Romanian Banat during the Austro-Hungarian rule. The founding fathers of the village Triebswetter (bad weather) have a violent and spectacular past: a mercenary, the first of the Obertins (not even the spelling of the family name is accurate) deserts the Hundred Years War to find his way back home (not knowing where home is). He finds similarity in the landscapes and settles down, after killing an entire family he considered to have occupied his parents’ home. Marrying the survivor of his slaughter, a young woman, the same Obertin leads colonists towards Banat, on the Danube. These types of intermezzos are present throughout the novel and tell constantly about malheur and emblematic lives. The family saga stops at Jacob’s (the protagonist) mother. Coming back from Northamerica at the beginning of the 20th century, she holds a great fortune but remains single, until Jakob, the father, enters the scene. Brought, literally, by a storm he will marry Elsa Obertin, take her name (because he does not have his own name) and the family’s assets.
Jakob Obertin a mean, selfish and controlling father and husband, will ensure a vigorous and prosperous, but loveless, life for his family. Jacob, his son, a gentle, sensitive and caring boy bears absolutely no similarity to his father. The protagonist is a ferverous reader and becomes fascinated by stories told by the village’s fortune-teller, a gypsy woman called Ramina. The monstrousity of his father surfaces, once again, at the end of the Second World War. The German population is being deported and Jakob betrays his own son in order to keep Ramina’s son (the child born through their affair), as he is stronger and hard working. Jacob escapes from the train to the death camps in Siberia and takes refuge in a nearby village, working and living for an Orthodox priest. After spending years away from home, Iacob returns to another disaster: it is the beginning of the Communist era, the collectivisation of property and forced disposessions. Jacob’s homecoming is overshadowed by the accidental death of Elsa Obertin and a second deportation to the South of Romania, in the Bărăgan plains. Jacob decides, as the title suggests, to forgive and love his last family, the (un)worthy Jakob, his father.
–by BIZULEANU DANA