Friday, 13 January 2012

The Auschwitz Violin - Maria Angels Anglada (Poland)

This book could fall into the Spanish category as well as the Polish, depending on whether you are undertaking this challenge by country of birth or by country in which the book is set. This is a beautifully written short read, at just 109 pages long, translated from its original Catalan by Martha Tennent.

The book tells the tale of Daniel, a Jewish violin maker interred in Auschwitz, who upon entry to the camp, gives his occupation as carpenter or cabinet maker. This is partly true, since the art of violin making does require a certain skill in carpentry. It is this skill that ultimately saves Daniels life.

When the Nazi's discover his skill, the Commander of the camp, a music (and red wine) affadicio requests that Daniel make him a violin. Daniel later discovers from a musician friend, also in the camp, that the Commander has placed a bet as to whether he will complete the violin within the time set required - Daniel is not aware of how long this time limit is, only that the bet has been placed, with a particularly evil Nazi Doctor who conducts medical experiments on live Jews. If the Commander wins the bet, the Doctor has to give him a case of red wine, but if he loses, he has to turn Daniel over to the Doctor as a subject in his experiments. Daniel does complete the violin in time and ultimately wins his freedomm, but not before he has been subjected to both physical and mental torture.

This is a haunting story and an excellent read, which once again brought to mind the brutalities that man can and indeed does, inflict upon his fellow man. Having travelled to Israel and visited the Museum of the Holocaust, among other sites, I felt a deep affinity with Daniel and his fellow prisoners, for both their love of music, and also their love of life, both of which ultimately won through, while the Commander and the Doctor both lost theirs - one of which at their own hands rather than face the consequences of what they had done.

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