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The State of Dark

By: Judith Mok

Publication Date: 13 October 2022

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Judith Mok was born in the Netherlands, to Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. She trained as a classical singer and travelled the world performing as a soloist, while publishing a novel and poetry collection there. For the last twenty years she has been based in Ireland, where she has become the country’s leading voice coach, working with classical singers and many international pop stars. In recent years she started to write in English, publishing a novel and poetry collection and contributing to publications like the Irish Times.

The State of Dark is a memoir and detective story. Like many children of Holocaust survivors, she was raised with the emotional trauma of having no other family members, while her parents tried to rebuild their lives in postwar Europe. Despite the constant and occasionally intrusive presence of the past – Anne Frank’s father Otto makes an emotional visit to her father to hand over some letters – she had little concrete information about the hundreds of members of her family who died. All the same, the Holocaust and its consequences continued to haunt her life.

At one point in her career she worked with the great German soprano Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. It was only years later that she discovered the full extent of Schwarzkopf ’s collaboration with the Nazi regime. Not only was she a full member of the National Socialist Party, but was also the mistress of Hans Frank, the notorious ‘Butcher of Poland’. Later, Mok would discover that Schwarzkopf had entertained the German troops in Poland at around the same time her family were being murdered there. A chance phone call made from her Dublin home in search of more information unleashes a whole process whereby Mok discovers, in shocking and intimate detail, the terrible fate of her family.

The State of Dark is a highly original, moving and beautifully written memoir of the so-called Second Generation trauma, which documents how the Holocaust continues to be a living issue in European life and culture, including in Ireland.

PRAISE FOR THE STATE OF DARK BY JUDITH MOK

‘At this particular point in history with the rise of authoritarian regimes, this crucially important book reminds us of how it went last time. Filled with music, poetry, love, friendship and horror, the history of Judith Mok’s family is a testament to survival against all the odds. Courageous, brutally honest and uniquely profound, you will find nothing else like it on bookshelves this year. Brava!’ LIZ NUGENT

The State of Dark is a privilege to read. With luminous prose, Judith Mok shines a light into the darkness of her family’s past. It is an extraordinary feat of storytelling to be able to write about inconceivable tragedies with such warmth and humanity.’ LOUISE NEALON

‘Possibly the most powerful book to be published in Ireland this year … unforgettable’ DERMOT BOLGER, SUNDAY BUSINESS POST

Read an extract from The State of Dark by Judith Mok on RTÉ Culture here.

Interview with Judith Mok on Books for Breakfast podcast

‘This brilliant book is a tapestry, interweaving glowing strands chronicling lives replete with learning and literature and song, with the unbearably dark story of how those lives were brutally ended during the holocaust. The contrast is heartbreaking and it is impeccably conveyed. Mok is an impressive writer. We should be grateful to her for not staying stumm. If you read only one Irish book this year, let it be this superb and unique memoir.’ ÉILÍS NÍ DHUIBHNE, IRISH TIMES

‘The extraordinary thing about The State of Dark, is how Judith makes the telling bearable for the reader. Divided into mini-essays, talking of different people, and different stages of her life, what comes over, most of all, is the sheer humanity in her telling. And the writing is poetically lyrical. We feel all the emotions, and at the same time, admire the literary content. … The book covers love, history, genocide, grief, family dynamics, and secrets, kept and uncovered. An hour of eclectic conversation has passed in a flash, and I feel I have barely scratched the surface of Judith’s life.’ SUE LEONARD, IRISH EXAMINER

Judith Mok interview on Virgin Media Television IRELAND AM

Judith Mok interview on RTÉ 2FM DAVE FANNING SHOW

Judith Mok interview on RTÉ Radio 1 BRENDAN O’CONNOR SHOW

‘Beautiful, heartbreaking book’ CIARA DWYER, SUNDAY INDEPENDENT

‘Remarkable’ DEARBHAIL MCDONALD, RTÉ RADIO 1

‘In telling her family’s stories, Mok is facing the ‘state of dark’ that was too horrible for her parents, many other first-generation Holocaust survivors, and until now Mok herself, to face, collecting the shards of their lives and composing them into a mirror that can, through the Jewish rite of tikkun olam, help repair the world … There is great courage in Mok.’ JAMES CAMIEN MCGUIGGAN, THE JOURNAL OF MUSIC

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

For the last twenty years Judith Mok has been based in Ireland, where she has become the country’s leading voice coach, working with classical singers and international pop stars like Grace Jones, Dermot Kennedy and many others. She has published a novel and a collection of poetry. Read more here.

Mok’s radio play, Confinements, produced by RTÉ Drama On One and part of which is inspired by The State of Dark, represented Ireland as the finalist for Best Writing (Craft) in the New York Festivals Radio Awards 2022.

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Also available as an ebook

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ISBN
9781843518501
Weight 0.4 kg
Dimensions 136 × 216 mm
Publication Date

13 October 2022

Format

Paperback with flaps, 176pp