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Winds of War

Las Cruces author Mireille Marokvia shares the story of her dangerous life in as a French woman in WWII Germany.

 

At the age of 97 years, a time of life when most would be content to kick back in their rockers and let the grandchildren visit, Las Cruces author Mireille Marokvia is getting ready for another book signing. She has just published her second book of memoirs, Sins of the Innocent (Unbridled Books, $24.95), to be released this month.

Marokvia says she is "moderately" excited about her Branigan Library book signing on Sept. 20, the only one scheduled for this work.

"You know how old I am, right?" she asks with a laugh. "I do not get around like I once did."

But she admits she loves meeting the public, talking about her work, her life. There is for her, after all, healing in the telling of these stories. She describes writing her memoirs as something of a cathartic process, something she did for herself and maybe, just maybe, for history, too.

"For me, it was about communicating. I wanted to, I needed to write it. It's like I had to get rid of my childhood, you know? To get it out," she says.

As for historical significance, she humbly admits to feeling some value in getting the story "down on paper."

A noteworthy feature of Sins of the Innocent is Marokvia's authorial "voice"—her phrasing, the things on which she chooses to comment and focus—as World War II swirls around her, providing a dark and dramatic backdrop to her story. She mentions the vacations she and her husband took, gathering together for dinners with family and friends—simple, precious meals pulled together in a time of chaos and great lack.

But Marokvia makes little of her courage and her perhaps womanly attention to the domestic details that anchor her narrative and touch the reader's heart. "I was not aware of that when I wrote it," she says simply. "It was just my life.

"You have to go on," she adds. "There is the everyday. You have to eat, after all."

 

Born in a village near Chartres, France, in 1908, Marokvia published her first essay in France more than 60 years ago. Her first publication in English, a children's book, was released in 1959. Her previous memoir, Immortelles: Memoir of a Will-o'-the-Wisp (MacMurray & Beck), published in 1996, describes her childhood, growing up in the first decades of the 20th century in a small French village. In that narrative, Marokvia gives voice to her vision and addresses the ghosts that haunt her memories.

Her new book reflects on her life as a young French woman living in Germany during World War II. Sins of the Innocent covers the most difficult years of Marokvia's life.

The story opens in Paris, 1939, as a young Mireille Marokvia follows her artist husband, Abel, when he returns to Germany to care for his mother. Hitler begins his invasions across Europe, and the displaced young couple must find a way to survive the war in Germany, a "foreign" country to them both—Mireille being French, and her husband in a sort of self-imposed exile, opposed as he is to Hitler's reign.

At times painfully lonely, often uprooted and on the move for survival's sake, she adjusts to life with her difficult husband and courageously copes with the circumstances in which she finds herself. With her husband traveling through war zones for work, Mireille is left essentially alone. Isolated in wartime Germany, and suspected by her neighbors of spying for the Allies, she tries to carve out a life for herself that is as quiet as possible in a dangerous world. Though the book deals with harsh realities, her love of life is evident from start to finish.

Marokvia began writing about her life experiences—these stories that became her memoirs—back in Germany. But that first draft was destroyed in 1944 when she learned the Gestapo planned to visit her home. She burned her writings, just in case.

In fact, the Gestapo did visit.

Through Marokvia's wise decision and willingness to let those pages go—and to our collective benefit—the author lived to write another day.

—Donna Clayton Lawder

 

Mireille Marokvia will have a book signing, reading and Q&A period on Sept. 20 at 7 p.m. at the Thomas Branigan Memorial Library, 200 E. Picacho in Las Cruces. For information, call Mark Pendleton, 528-4000.

 

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