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January 27, 2005

Comments

Old Hag

Mark, what a nice post. One thing -- I love the painted bird too, but I thought they determined that it was mostly fiction....? (As in, really actually not anywhere near a memoir, since Kosinski was not in fact a Holocaust survivor?) Did that debunking get debunked too?

Dave Lull

"Although The Painted Bird may not be directly about the Holocaust, although it may not be based on Kosinski's own experiences during the Holocaust, it is nevertheless an indispensable document of the Holocaust. It is perhaps the greatest example of what is coming to be known as a 'second- generation' book: a contemporary report of the hell in which a survivor of the Holocaust must live, one generation after the event."

From:

A Life Beyond Repair
Jerzy Kosinski: A Biography. By James Park Sloan. Dutton. 505 pp. $27.95.
Reviewed by D. G. Myers

http://www.firstthings.com/ftissues/ft9610/reviews/myers.html


Scott

Mark, are you familiar with Jorge Semprun's 'Literature or Life'? A friend gave it to me years ago in Chicago and its been in my head ever since.

TEV

Thanks Dave & Lizzie - brainfarted there, was on autopilot.

Scott, don't know the Semprun but will check it out on your say-so.

Jimmy Beck

Lovely post. I'd add Martin Gilbert's big book.

Dan Green

What got debunked was Kozinski's claims to have experienced what the protagonist of his novel experiences. As a work of fiction, The Painted Bird still holds up.

Jessica

My husband's grandparents never spoke of their pre-U.S. lives, except to mourn those they lost (in Austria and France). We travelled to Vienna last spring and were able to work some historiography voodoo and piece together some of their story. I very much look forward to reading The Number, and the novel.

Dave Worsley

Excellent work. Does anyone have any idea if Martha (Archivist) Cooley is coming along on another work of fiction? What a standout book! Again, nicely done, Mark

MG

Lovely post, Mark. And what a great list, too.

TEV

Thanks for sharing those images, Jessica. And I appreciate the kind words, Laila.

Dave, Martha Cooley's new book, Thirty Three Swoons comes out in May. I have a galley on my desk as we speak, and it's next up after Ian McEwan. I'll also be doing a Q&A with her.

Jenny D

Yes, thanks for the list.

A wonderful book that everyone should read is David Weiss Halivni's "The Book and the Sword: A Life of Learning in the Shadow of Destruction."

Martha

Great weblog... great list of books... it was nice to see mention of Jorge Semprun in a post.

For those of you who are not familiar with the work of Jorge Semprun, I cannot praise his work highly enough. He is one of Europe's truly great intellectuals, and it is a shame that so little of his work is available in English. Aside from two books written in Spanish, the rest have been written in French. Google him and you will begin to get a sense of who he is. On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Buchenwald, where he was a Communist prisoner from the age of 20 to 22, he and Elie Weisel did a broadcast together for French radio which was then reprinted as a monograph: Se Taire Est Impossible. He has written fiction and non-ficiton, and may be best known to English-speakers as the scriptwriter of Alain Renais' La Guerre est Finie,Costa Gavras' Z as well as the films State of Siege and Stavisky. The supremely ironic moment of his life must have been when he, an exile from Franco's Spain, was phoned by Felipe Gonzales, the first democratically elected Socialist Prime Minister of Spain in 1988 who asked Semprun, to become his Minister of Culure, which he did. It's all in the books - and much, much more.

David

A very touching post. I too am a child of survivors -- but not of Auschwitz. The literary references are very interesting and I plan to follow up on several of them.

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TEV DEFINED


  • The Elegant Variation is "Fowler’s (1926, 1965) term for the inept writer’s overstrained efforts at freshness or vividness of expression. Prose guilty of elegant variation calls attention to itself and doesn’t permit its ideas to seem naturally clear. It typically seeks fancy new words for familiar things, and it scrambles for synonyms in order to avoid at all costs repeating a word, even though repetition might be the natural, normal thing to do: The audience had a certain bovine placidity, instead of The audience was as placid as cows. Elegant variation is often the rock, and a stereotype, a cliché, or a tired metaphor the hard place between which inexperienced or foolish writers come to grief. The familiar middle ground in treating these homely topics is almost always the safest. In untrained or unrestrained hands, a thesaurus can be dangerous."

SECOND LOOK

  • The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald

    Bs

    Penelope Fitzgerald's second novel is the tale of Florence Green, a widow who seeks, in the late 1950s, to bring a bookstore to an isolated British town, encountering all manner of obstacles, including incompetent builders, vindictive gentry, small minded bankers, an irritable poltergeist, but, above all, a town that might not, in fact, want a bookshop. Fitzgerald's prose is spare but evocative – there's no wasted effort and her work reminds one of Hemingway's dictum that every word should fight for its right to be on the page. Florence is an engaging creation, stubbornly committed to her plan even as uncertainty regarding the wisdom of the enterprise gnaws at her. But The Bookshop concerns itself, finally, with the astonishing vindictiveness of which provincials are capable, and, as so much English fiction must, it grapples with the inevitabilities of class. It's a dense marvel at 123 pages, a book you won't want to – or be able to – rush through.
  • The Rider by Tim Krabbe

    Rider_4

    Tim Krabbé's superb 1978 memoir-cum-novel is the single best book we've read about cycling, a book that will come closer to bringing you inside a grueling road race than anything else out there. A kilometer-by-kilometer look at just what is required to endure some of the most grueling terrain in the world, Krabbé explains the tactics, the choices and – above all – the grinding, endless, excruciating pain that every cyclist faces and makes it heart-pounding rather than expository or tedious. No writer has better captured both the agony and the determination to ride through the agony. He's an elegant stylist (ably served by Sam Garrett's fine translation) and The Rider manages to be that rarest hybrid – an authentic, accurate book about cycling that's a pleasure to read. "Non-racers," he writes. "The emptiness of those lives shocks me."