Daniel Kalla began his talk by setting out the history of how Jewish people from Austria escaped to Shanghai after the Anschluss. At the time Shanghai was “the Las Vegas of Asia” because of its status as a treaty city that had been invaded by Japan (apart from the international settlement and French concession).
Kalla read an emotionally charged section of his novel from before the Adler family fled. The reading featured Adolf Eichmann blithely discussing his fear for the safety of the Jewish people after Kristallnacht, so Adler would have to leave the Reich or be sent to Dachau.
When he turned it over to questions, people asked technical writing questions about weaving in exposition, and how many times he had to submit manuscripts, but also questions about history. He talked about the era and the setting, and how the relationships between different ethnic groups worked. The key to historical fiction is to sound authentic, he said, and yes he takes a certain amount of license with facts.
Kalla stressed how his story is not a traditional Holocaust tragedy: “There were extremes of evil going on, but there were also extremes of decency.”