Told in the gentle tone of a fable, Jean-Claude Grumberg’s The Most Precious of Cargoes tells the moving story of a woman who wanted a child, and a child who needed a home. It is a tale that teaches us that even in the darkest, most violent times, there is reason to believe in people’s capacity for kindness.
Once upon a time in an enormous forest there lived a poor woodcutter and his wife. Around them a war wages, and hunger is a constant companion. Yet every night, the woodcutter’s wife prays for a child.
On a train crossing the forest, a Jewish father holds his twin children. His wife no longer has enough milk to feed them. In hopes of saving both their lives, he wraps his daughter in a shawl and gently throws her from the train.
While foraging for food, the woodcutter’s wife finds a bundle, a baby girl wrapped in a shawl. She knows that this little girl will be pursued, but she cannot ignore this gift: she will accept the precious cargo, and raise her as her own. . .
Set against the horrors of the Holocaust and told with a fairytale-like lyricism, The Most Precious of Cargoes, translated from French by Frank Wynne, is a deeply moving fable about family and redemption, a story that reminds us that humanity can be found in the most inhumane of places.