Sunday, March 27, 2011

Review: Violin of Auschwitz (Maria Angels Anglada)

Title: The Violin of Auschwitz
Author: Maria Angels Anglada (translated by Martha Tennent)
Genre: Historical fiction
Pages: 109
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Challenges
FTC Disclosure: I bought this book on sale!
Summary (from the inside flap of the book): In the winter of 1991, at a concert in Krakow, an older woman with a marvelously pitched violin meets a fellow musician who is instantly captivated by her instrument. When he asks her how she obtained it, she reveals the remarkable story behind its origin...

Imprisoned at Auschwitz, the notorious concentration camp, Daniel feels his humanity slipping away. Treasured memories of the young woman he loved and the prayers that once lingered on his lips become hazier with each passing day. Then a visit from a mysterious stranger changes everything, as Daniel's former identity as a crafter of fine violins is revealed to all. The camp's two most dangerous men use this information to make a cruel wager: If Daniel can build a successful violin within a certain number of days the Kommandant wins a case of the finest burgundy. If not, the camp doctor, a torturer, gets hold of Daniel. And so, battling exhaustion, Daniel tries to recapture his lost art, knowing all too well the likely cost of failure.

Review: This slim volume is so powerful. I am extremely fond of Holocaust literature, and this novel has many of the standard elements: concentration camp; despicable treatment by the Nazis; and deep despair. However, there are aspects that are also fresh and new:
  • The translation from the Catalan is beautifully done. I didn't feel as if I was reading a translation
  • The story is about a musician at Auschwitz, which is a side of the camps that doesn't get much attention (however, I have seen the made-for-TV movie "Playing for Time" starring Vanessa Redgrave, which I highly recommend). 
  • While there are descriptions of the suffering in the camp, we also see the friendships, the inner thoughts of an intelligent and gentle man, both of which pull the reader into the characters' lives easily and quickly
  • I also liked the telling of the modern story, which sandwiches the Auschwitz portion of the book. I loved the connection between the now and then, the modern and the historical.
  • There are portions of Auschwitz documents quoted in the book and, as noted by the author, they are real and authentic.
Geography Connection:

Click to see my updated Google Map. This book takes place in Poland and in Holland, but mostly in Poland. I have never been to Poland, but I would like to go, especially to Warsaw and Krakow. I posted a Holocaust literature review recently and will list the same books here as suggestions for further reading.



4 comments:

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I saw this slim gem at the library and was tempted. Glad you liked it!

Helen's Book Blog said...

Diane--Oh, don't just be tempted, borrow it! It's such a quick read with a lot of thought

Jan von Harz said...

This title caught my attention and I loved reading your thoughts on this book. Great review

Helen's Book Blog said...

Jan--Thank you, it really was a good read, and so quick since it is short. But, powerful.