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Category Archive for 'Poland'

Stefan Chwin, a highly acclaimed Polish novelist from Gdansk, for whom this is the first novel translated into English (by Philip Boehm), focuses on Danzig/Gdansk as it adapts to the comings and goings of its changing citizenry during the tumult of post-war 1945. Imbuing the city with the aura of a main character in this darkly impressionistic novel, Chwin shows us that no matter who is officially in control, the city somehow survives, a permanent monument to the endurance of the communal spirit and the ability to adapt. Meticulous descriptions of the smallest aspects of daily life—home furnishings, buildings, neighborhoods, and life at the port—turn the city into a living, breathing entity, battered by changes of fortune, perhaps, but still functioning and still providing a home to a changing population.

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Thomas Keneally’s Booker Prize-winning, fictionalized biography of Oskar Schindler memorializes a member of the Nazi party who endangered his own life for four years, working privately to save Jews from the death camps. A playboy who loved fine wines and foods, he was also a smooth-talking manipulator (and briber) of Nazi officials, as well as a clever entrepreneur, already on his way to stunning financial success by the early days of World War II. Nowhere in Schindler’s background are there any hints that he would one day become the savior of eleven hundred Jewish men and women. While the excellent film of this novel concentrates on the dangers Schindler and “his Jews” faced daily throughout the war, Keneally, well known for his depictions of characters acting under stress, concentrates on the character of Oskar Schindler himself, beginning with his childhood and teen years. As he explores Schindler’s transformation from war profiteer and “passive” Nazi to a man willing to use his fortune to ensure the salvation of his factory workers, Keneally reveals a man of enormous courage and derring-do, a man who thrives by living on the edge. (To see the full review, click on the title of this excerpt)

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