Yad Vashem, Jerusalem’s memorial to the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis during World War II, also recognizes non-Jewish individuals who risked their lives to save the Jews from the Nazi executioners. One of the trees that line the memorial’s Avenue of the Righteous” was planted to honor Raoul Wallenberg, a Swede. Among the bravest heroes of World War II, he saved about 100,000 Jews.
But when the war ended, Wallenberg did not return home to well-earned acclaim. Instead he was arrested by the Soviet troops who marched into Budapest. The Soviet government has declared time and again that he is dead. And, just as often, new witnesses have insisted that Raoul Wallenberg is--or was--still alive in a Soviet prison or a mental hospital.
For over seventy years his fate has remained a mystery, and that mystery is the subject of Alan Lelchuk’s novel, Searching for Wallenberg--at once a detective story and an unusual, multilayered love story, with surprising characters, daring plunges into the gaps of history, and an engaging narrative. Here history is enhanced and challenged by fiction.
"Searching for Wallenberg offers a fictional account of Wallenberg’s life . . .a narrative which is more illuminating than any history we have or may ever get…..The hybrid genre of fiction intertwined with nonfictional aspects is increasingly more common, and with the insertion of the real life interview with [Wallenberg's KGB interrogator] into the fictional narrative, Lelchuk blazes an intriguingly sophisticated and new literary trail."—Louis Gordon, Tikkun
"Through the figure of Manny Gellerman, Lelchuk becomes Wallenberg’s faithful “ghostwriter”; in the process, Searching for Wallenberg brings Raoul back to life, reimagined for a generation short on memory, short on authentic heroes….The novel may be as close to the “truth” about Wallenberg and why we need to keep his memory alive as we are likely to have. Thanks to Lelchuk, Wallenberg’s ethical example continues to move us with admiration and awe.” —Donald Weber, Jewish Book Council
“[A] satisfying read….To read this book is to take a thinking person’s journey to uncover the “truth” of a valiant but ultimately enigmatic historical figure.” —Janet Levine, New York Journal of Books
“It took me a good 50 pages to get into this story but once it got into the actual research, I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. Lelchuk gives us enough factual background into Wallenberg to make the reader interested in the man himself and weaves a credible scenario around it. This is a great book for WWII historical fiction fans. If you don’t know who Raoul Wallengberg was, you should and this novel is a good introduction.” Teddy Rose Book Reviews
“There are no clear answers as to what happened to Wallenberg, but by the end of the novel the reader feels some sense of closure. Through the 10 to 12 years Lelchuk spent researching and writing Searching for Wallenberg, he fills the gaps in the history by bringing Wallenberg’s perspective to life. ‘Because of my fictional license and my long research, I was able to give Raoul himself a voice, a living ghost’s voice, to tell of his side of things.'” —Cynthia Anderson, Historical Novel Society (The home of historical fiction online)
“In his new novel, “Searching for Wallenberg,” Alan Lelchuk’s narrator attempts to reach the truth of what happened to Raoul Wallenberg, a Righteous Gentile who disappeared with hardly a trace after saving as many as 120,000 Jews in Nazi-occupied Budapest. The novelist’s scenes imagining the character of Wallenberg have more potency in gaining an understanding of that era than the research findings the narrator also shares with readers.” —Beth Kissileff, The Jewish Week
Alan Lelchuk's most recent novel, Searching for Wallenberg is a mixture of fact with fiction and a little humor thrown in for good measure….a terrific narrative drive with a splendid gallery of characters….Abundantly clever, Lelchuk entertains his readers on a grand scale with much to ponder about. His writing is incredibly powerful and insightful as he constructs his narrative from the perspective of fiction rather than history as a result of the many spaces and gaps that exist pertain to this mysterious hero and thus enabling him to imagine would might have really happened in the past." —Norm Goldman, Book Pleasures
“Part detective story, part philosophic inquiry, part historic revisionism, Alan Lelchuk delivers a thinking man’s thriller….” —Jules Feiffer, Pulitzer Prize and Oscar-winning cartoonist, playwright, and author
“A deft blending of fact and fiction, filled with the spirits of such places as Budapest, Stockholm, Moscow, the Brooklyn of Manny's youth, and pastoral life at a New England college….Lelchuk's style is aggressive, humorous, and strong throughout….” —William H. Pritchard, the author of Frost: A Literary Life Reconsidered and Randall Jarrell: A Literary Life
“Searching for Wallenberg is a tour de force…[Lelchuk] has created a compelling excursion behind Stalin’s iron curtain during the darkest early days of the Cold War.” —Martin J. Sherwin, Pulitzer Prize winner American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer
“Sometimes we are better served by a novelist's imagination than by a professional historian's scholarship. Alan Lelchuk drives this argument home with a brilliantly constructed literary investigation into the mysterious life and death of Raoul Wallenberg. The strength of the fiction lies in its ambiguity: this is how it might have been--or maybe not.” —Michael Walzer, author, Just and Unjust Wars
“Not knowing is the great subject of Alan Lelchuk’s remarkable novel about one man’s effort to learn to live on the border separating the known and the unknown.” —Thomas Powers, author, The Killing of Crazy Horse and Heisenberg’s War
“The fate of Raoul Wallenberg has remained a mystery for seventy years, and Alan Lelchuk’s novel Searching for Wallenberg uses a fictional investigation to explore the real question of what happened. This is a thoughtful and compelling novel that blends mystery, history, and speculative elements…and one that will hopefully introduce more readers to an important and often overlooked hero.” —Foreword Magazine, May 27, 2015.
“Lelchuk, going between present and past, imagining scenes both historical and fantastical, attempts to arrive at a fuller picture of Wallenberg….(and) Wallenberg’s fate.“ Forbes, April 30, 2015
“Let me give a word of warning—do not begin this book if you cannot clear your day because one you begin to read…it is impossible to stop. Not only is this a fascinating read, it is documented and we see that not only is author Alan Lelchuk a skilled novelist with a great imagination, he also did heavy research to write this book. “ —Amos Lassen, Judaica, February 22, 2016
Searching for Wallenberg: A Novel