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.