Carole Rosenthal’s fiction and nonfiction appears in many places, and she is the author of the short story collection It Doesn’t Have To Be Me (Hamilton Stone Editions). A chapter of her memoir is in the new anthology, Not Somewhere Else but Here, and parts of this work are published in ACM, Huffington Post, and Persimmon Tree. Her first literary short story was accepted in the final issue of the late, great Transatlantic Review. Since, her stories have been in a wide variety of magazines, including Able Muse, ACM, Sol, the minnesota riview, Confrontation, Other Voices, The Cream City Review, Mother Jones, Alfred Hitchcock, and Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. Rosenthal’s writing, often anthologized, has been dramatized for radio and television, translated into eleven languages, and printed by presses such as Dell, Virago, Arbor House, and the Modern Language Association. She is a longtime professor at Pratt Institute, and lives part-time in New York City and part-time in the Catskills Mountains.
Carole, in “News from the Past,” your excerpt from The Goldie Files, the reader learns how Bernie Biederman wouldn’t have made a good member of The Monuments Men. In fact, he snatched a treasured, 800-year-old manuscript from among church artifacts in a cave he was chartered to guard while an allied soldier in World War II. He’s caught in an unending dilemma: holding a significant document of human history—with painted illustrations, calligraphic script, and religious codes—but unable to receive recognition or profit from “his book” for how he acquired it. How did the story originate, and how much did Bernie’s burning lifelong secret help shape his character?
In The Goldie Files a mystery is solved, a priceless long-hidden art work is recovered, and Martin Biederman, Bernie’s only son, is forced after his father’s death to shoulder the public and private obligations of his father’s troubling secrets. I began this novel after reading journalistic accounts of the wartime disappearance and subsequent repatriation of an illuminated manuscript that resided for centuries in the same church where Heinrich Himmler conducted his notorious Nazi SS rituals. When I visited that town—Quedlinburg, Germany—to view the manuscript, I discovered that Himmler also considered himself the reincarnation of Germany’s first Emperor, Heinrich the Fowler. Nazi mysticism doesn’t play a large role in The Goldie Files, but it sure does stimulate the imagination.
In 1945, as a dapper, young Jewish GI, Bernie believed he was “rescuing” an ancient manuscript—he would never agree that he had “snatched” it—from the casual desecration of a profit-minded Army buddy. He is dazzled by the manuscript’s bejeweled cover with its graceful ivory Madonna, its stylized miniatures and iconography. Raised in an orphanage, primarily self-taught, secrecy and silence come naturally to him, but Bernie’s cultural universe vastly expanded after his enforced European stint. His possession of “his book” lends an obsessive excitement to his life, and upon returning to the States, he begins consuming world history, learns imperfect Latin, and immerses himself in medieval art.