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The Hand that Signed the Paper by [Dale, Helen]
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The Hand that Signed the Paper Kindle Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Length: 168 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
Page Flip: Enabled Language: English

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Product Description

“Astonishingly talented... with the true novelist’s gift of entering into the imagination of those she is writing about.” — David Marr

As war crimes prosecutions seize Australia, Fiona Kovalenko discovers that her own family is implicated in the darkest events of the twentieth century. This is their story.

First published under an assumed identity, The Hand that Signed the Paper remains one of the most celebrated and controversial books in recent Australian literature. With a new introduction by the author, it continues to raise urgent questions about history, responsibility, and truth.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1169 KB
  • Print Length: 168 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Ligature (21 April 2017)
  • Sold by: Amazon Australia Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B06ZZKYP8W
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #75,735 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I procured and devoured a Kindle copy of Helen Dale (nee "Demidenko"nee Darville)'s "The Hand that signed the paper" yesterday morning (Australian Eastern Standard Time.) I was in my early teens when it was initially published, and recall following the controversy which ensued avidly in the pages of Quadrant (where one of said magazine's founders (Richard Krygier) was close to my maternal grandfather's family since the War.)

As fate would have it, I became personally acquainted with its author a couple of years ago, and subsequently have been embroiled in similar electronic (and occasionally physical) circles. While initially wary of her, certain exigencies of said acquaintance have sufficed to exonerate her in my mind from the wilder charges of anti-semitism which those of Robert Manne or Gerard Henderson's ilk have levied. Indeed, I'd venture to say that her remaining free from such prejudice despite subsequently facing substantial obloquy due to said book's reputation greatly testifies to her magnanimity, fortitude, sound judgement and essential decency.

The novel itself was relatively short, and only took me one hour and forty five minutes to read, including distractions (due to it being a Kindle edition which I read, I'm not sure of the pagination. My own surmise from recollection, though, is that it's of similar length to a typical work of Flaubert or Anatole France, so c. 250 pp 8vo.)

I found that the Queensland (and other Australian) scenes, while brief, added greatly to its verisimilitude and the plausibility of the author's "Demidenko" identity.
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At times bewildering in the narrative, but it is almost like that it is on purpose, it is indeed a story of bewildering times! It does an excellent job of providing insight into how people end up committing unspeakable atrocities, sometimes because the alternative may be even worse. Told through various vantage points and centred around an old Ukrainian man about to face a war crimes court in Australia. It is a story well told, at times harrowing more because of what it doesn't say, depicting the desperation and misery of victims of war we've rarely heard of. I like the "economy" of the writing, everything is there for a reason, nothing superfulous, and look forward to more from this author.
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I was aware of the book & the controversy surrounding it at the time but never read it. I read the kindle edition while on a long flight yesterday. It is one of the most impressive & memorable books I have ever read. It describes a people engulfed by immense historical forces over which they have no control: the clash between Bolshevism & Nazism. There is a revolving world of oppressors becoming oppressed & vice versa & the hate that eventuates. It presents a perspective on these events & the participants that is free of the one-sided, one dimensional propaganda that is compulsory today. It invites the question: What would we do in the light of similar circumstances. One only needs to look at the long agony of Palestine & Gaza to agree with the narrator: The only thing that you learn is that you never learn.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)

Amazon.com: 2.8 out of 5 stars 4 reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars There is a revolving world of oppressors becoming oppressed & vice versa & the hate that eventuates 18 July 2017
By Dr. Colin L. Sheppard - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
I was aware of the book & the controversy surrounding it at the time but never read it. I read the kindle edition while on a long flight recently. It is one of the most impressive & memorable books I have ever read. It describes a people engulfed by immense historical forces over which they have no control: the clash between Bolshevism & Nazism. There is a revolving world of oppressors becoming oppressed & vice versa & the hate that eventuates. It presents a perspective on these events & the participants that is free of the one-sided, one dimensional propaganda that is compulsory today. It invites the question: What would we do in the light of similar circumstances. One only needs to look at the long agony of Palestine & Gaza to agree with the narrator: The only thing that you learn is that you never learn.
i wanted a physical copy of the book to lend to friends, but found that no bookshops in Melbourne, Australia stocked it or listed it even on their online stores. I was forced to buy it from amazon.com! Unlike America, Australians have no constitutional right to free speech.
0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Change of heart 1 November 2003
By Alyssa A. Lappen - Published on Amazon.com
My 1995 paperback of this Australian barn-burner opens with an author's note, thanking "friends and family who talked with me, ... who helped with translation and constructive criticism." Claiming descent from an Irish mother and Ukrainian father, Demidenko wrote that events on which the novel was based were true: "it would be ridiculous to pretend that this book is unhistorical." She'd used "historical events and people where necessary."

She claimed that to have experienced "as a Ukrainian-Australian, a great deal of personal unpleasantness as a result of the war crimes trials." She had been "continually called upon to explain why Ukrainians had done this, why Ukrainians had done that." (Jerusalem Post, Jul. 23, 1995). Her narrator tells of an uncle, charged with war crimes, who hides under the kitchen table yelling: "The Israelis are coming to get me!"

The novel opens as Soviet Jewish "commissars" arrive in Ukraine. The narrator alleges that they inflicted famine and suffering. That, she claims, "was how the hate started." As her uncle goes to trial, the narrator says, "My sister is starting to hate, my sister who never hated anything."

Far from historical truth, this book is something of "an apologia for genocide," as French resistance veteran and Melbourne University historian Jacques Adler observed. It ignores the 17th century Ukrainian nationalist rebellion that killed tens of thousands of Jews as well as the Ukrainian murders of 100,000 Jews during the 1918 civil war. It portrays sympathetically a man who machine-gunned thousands and bayoneted a baby.

Demidenko blamed Jews for the Ukraine famine, which she claimed had caused Ukrainians to join the Nazi genocide of Jews, and made their actions understandable. These controversial claims generated news coverage, book sales, and possibly influenced judges for Australia's Vogel Literary prize, Miles Franklin award and Literature Society Gold Medal, all of which the book won.

Of course, the book generated a great deal of criticism, since Stalin actually caused the Ukrainian famine, as Robert Conquest's Harvest of Sorrow shows conclusively. Among the critics were Melbourne Age columnist Pamela Bone, novelist and Vogel judge Roger McDonald, and Sydney Institute director Gerard Henderson, who believed the book unjustly forgave Ukrainian Nazi collaborators for Jew-hatred and murder. Some termed the novel an apologia for genocide. Critics expected it to comfort "racists and antisemites" from Australia to Russa.

Shortly after the novel's fourth paperback printing, Demidenko's high-school headmaster identified her and publicly exposed her claims and supposed family history as false. She is really Helen Darville, the daughter of English immigrants.

To her credit, Darville apologized publicly in August 1995, according to the Jerusalem Post. She had not taken oral family testimonies. Her father's family was not "killed by" Ukrainian "Jewish communists." Her father was Harry Darville. Her parents met in Scunthorpe England, not on a refugee ship.

Darville's false claims did huge harm. But to her further enormous credit, September 11, 2001 changed her heart. Australian newspaper reactions to the atrocities elicited Darville's public mea culpa in which she also condemned those who were "parroting Saddam Hussein and Mullah Mohammad Omar." (Sydney Morning Herald, "Were we U.S.-Bashers Wrong all Along?" Oct. 1, 2001)

A Democrat and daughter of a Green, Darville admitted that she had previously so actively siphoned "blame away from the perpetrators of violent crime" that her friends termed her views "parodic" and "Pythonesque." She wrote that her attitude had encouraged her to "take swipes at Israel and the Jewish lobby," and accuse both "without distinction" of reverse racism, and of exploiting the Holocaust for territorial gain.

But Darville reported her disgust when Palestinians cheered and "ululated with joy" as "planes carved into skyscrapers." The author-turned-teacher wrote that she was further sickened by repeated, widespread Palestinian hatred that went widely unreported, since the PA had "been busily preventing further filming." One BBC correspondent had sent her "a distraught email:" Yasser Arafat's police had "destroyed his camera and opened his head up with a truncheon."

Darville now reviled the notion that Americans should simultaneously "accept every carping criticism of their foreign policy (Israel, Iraq, Chile, etc)," along with murders of several thousand civilians and "respond peacefully." She now recognized that international cries to "End support for Israel" contained a "large amount of submerged anti-Semitism," which directly blamed Israel's "brutality towards the Palestinians" for the "attacks on America."

Darville rightly concluded that these arguments blurred the line between "atrocity, and what one condones." She explained that writing this book had also tempted her to adopt such reasoning, "We all know the Holocaust was heinous, but..."

But now she recognized that Bin Laden, Mullah Omar and their anti-American Pakistani and Palestinian supporters wanted "to see all Jews dead." Writing this book had taught her about Nazi propaganda, she now reported, and the actions of those who currently supported such propaganda had crystallized for her their true intentions. "These people hate Jews so much that, consciously or unconsciously, they've come to identify with Nazis," she wrote.

She now reviled the attacks on America and Israel as well as those taking "the same glib and facile path I once took--thereby absolving not only the terrorists, but their state sponsors, of blame." She asked readers to stop blurring the "fine line between understanding and condoning atrocity." Well said, indeed.

--Alyssa A. Lappen
16 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good book, despite controversy 7 September 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Despite her very public lying, Darville put together an excellent novel. Its unusual style, and interesting point of view makes it a book worth reading. There's some truth to the complaint that a few of the characters are two-dimensional, though none are uninteresting. However, one must remember that this was her first novel, and few authors make no mistakes in their early works. This book shows that Helen Darville has tremendous promise, and I can only hope that the fiasco surrounding this work does not diminish from its status as a piece of worthwhile literature.
5 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars love it 31 May 2006
By Angelina Mimosa - Published on Amazon.com
The purpose of this work was not to 'blame the Jews' for anything. The purpose was to construct a history from the "wrong side" and asess the implications of this. Whilst there remains a huge focus on the experiences of Jews during World War 2, we must be careful not edit out the experiences of other majority groups. . . The human being remains a construct of social and political machinery and that is intrinsically the point the text makes.

Throughout history (particularly over the last 150 years), groups have been exploited by Jews in high places. I am not justifying the barbarous reality of the holocaust, I am just indicating that certain elements of history have been blotted out, at the expense of human dignity and suffering of millions of Ukranians.

The novel remains a historical narrative, indicating a version of reality told from a marginalised point of view. Darville, should not be martyred for thinking outside social and historical limitations. In essence, the novel may be fiction but it is based on a historical reality.
0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A sad indicment and moment in time of Australian of literature 1 November 2013
By "Belgo Geordie" - Published on Amazon.com
Can you give no stars for a book. If so, this is a novel which deserves to be categorised alongside the Elders of Zion as fiction as a means to support the right of people who carried out pogroms, genocide and culminating in a holocaust. That it won literary prizes but is not well written should be shaming enough. Were these prizes given due to the story? Its sensationalism under the guise of a family history explaining the Jews through their actions (such as being a prime cause of the Ukrainian famine) bought it on themselves? Even more shaming has been some of the debate where art is beyond morality, politics and historic accuracy. I keep this book because it reminds me novels have the power to feed harm as well as enrich and create change.

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