An Unfinished Portrait by Myriam Frank

Excerpts of letters sent from Spain and France during the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War, reprinted as an appendix to a memoir by Miriam Frank (the letter-writer’s daughter).
The memoir woman’s journey to understand the life of her mother – a life of turmoil, transition and passion, set against the backdrop of mid-twentieth century Europe.
Through a selection of photographs, a series of journeys and her own memories, acclaimed memoirist Miriam Frank attempts to re-trace the path of her mother, Käte. German-born Käte was forced into a life of transience: leaving an increasingly right-wing Germany in the 1930s to find herself caught in the Spanish Civil War, escaping to Vichy France, and then to Mexico, New Zealand and finally England. As she navigated the horrors of twentieth-century Europe, at times fighting for her very survival, the only constant in her life was her small daughter, Miriam.

A set of letters from 1939-40 reprinted as the appendix
1 month
Quote from Translation
“At seven in the morning, I cycle for an hour (12 km) in the cold and usually rainy weather to work for some farmers. Ten hours for 25 francs a day. It’s the grape harvest now, then comes the turnip harvest, then that will be over with and I’ll have to find something else. I return at 7 pm exhausted to death, hardly able to stand. Back to my cold room. Nobody is waiting for me, no hot soup, no made bed. The mice in the cupboard have gnawed on the bread and the cheese. Then I peel off my wet clothes, wash myself and go to see Miriam, who is well cared for, more spoilt than suffering. But she says I make her sad. Then I feed her and tuck her in and go home and am too tired to light a fire and don’t eat anything and get undressed and knit until my eyelids drop. Only I can’t today because I’m too sad.”
Bibliographic Details
Appendix in: Frank, Miriam. An Unfinished Portrait: Journeys around My Mother. Gibson Square, 2017.