The Auschwitz Violin

The Auschwitz Violin

By Maria Angels Anglada

Corsair/Constable & Robinson – £9.99

‘’The long hours of standing naked at attention in the freezing cold, waiting his turn for the miserable, perverse ceremonies: face and body shaved by common prisoners – criminals who wore the terrible green triangles – arms marked by indelible tattoos, hair sheared, bodies disinfected as if they were plants. The fear that the showers might be gas chambers rather than the freezing water that scarified their bodies but was finally inoffensive if the men weren’t under it too long […]. The thrashings if you didn’t immediately understand orders or walked too slowly. The screams and sobs from prisoners whose wives or children were wrenched from them, the defiant eyes of the gypsy who had switched lines and stood by his elderly father while his little boy headed for death.’’

Just reading the above lines alone, is enough to render The Auschwitz Violin a totally thought-provoking, heart-breaking, accomplished yet beautifully written book.

As Emily Dickinson is quoted as saying at the outset of chapter six (from which the above is taken): ‘’Pain – has an Element of Blank.’’ And unless one has actually traversed across some sort of the uncontrollable chasm of anguish, it’s really hard, if not impossible, to clarify, define and understand the threshold – from which insurmountable pain may never really cease to relent.

Hence, Dickinson’s ‘element of blank’ and it’s all circumnavigating, cathartic and acute acknowledgment by Catalan author, Maria Angels Anglada (1930 – 1999). Surely one of the most important yet under-rated of Catalan writers, it should come as no surprise to learn that she won the Octavi Pellissa Prize for her book of short stories, Nit de 1911. For with haunting simplicity and a most acute eye for harrowing, social darkness, Anglada herein tells the story of (just) one mans’ brute will to survive (just) one of many appalling concentration camps, scattered throughout Nazi occupied Poland: ‘’He had been consigned into the hands of incomprehensible hatred, forsaken by everyone. Even God.’’

Such breathtaking, hard-hitting punch, and literary finesse; is now thankfully available in English for the first time. And what an unforgettable read The Auschwitz Violin is too. It’s a book that both warrants and quintessentially deserves to be read – even if only to realise (and hopefully learn) what happens to humanity when it embarks upon blaming a segment of society for its own ills, shortcomings and disgusting failures.

David Marx


3 responses to “The Auschwitz Violin

  1. Having just read this book myself I came across your review. However I think we have very different opinions on the book. I have also wrote a review for it which can be found here
    But as I say it is very different to your review.

  2. Hi, I commented back to you through my blog but I’m not sure if you get notified of this, not too sure how the comments thing works on her yet. Anyway just in case you didn’t see it this is what I put…Thanks. Yes Schindlers List is one I have lined up to read in the future. If you could recommend the other books though that would be great. Thanks, Lauren.

    • Hi Lauren,
      No, can’t say I did get notified, but hey, I’m still coming to terms with the technology on here too.
      I just wanted to let you know that I’m currently reading a rather powerful book by an American writer by the name of Lev Raphael that you may be interested in. It’s called ‘My Germany’ (published through Terrace Books in the US). If you thought ‘The Auschwitz Violin’ didn’t quite reach the mark, I’m sure you’ll find that this most definitely will. I’m still in the midst of reading it, but it’s already making me think (and question). I’ll let you know about the other books shortly.
      All best,

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