Tag Archives: Holocaust Literature

Book Diva Review: Psalm 44, by Danilo Kis

psalm44 Psalm 44, a novel by Danilo Kis, is an example of analogies of life within the realms of pending doom and death.

The story line is extremely intense and filled with tenseness that breaks the heart of the reader, and also cements the horrific events that occurred during the Holocaust. Psalm 44 is extremely detailed with word-imagery that astounded me.

Marija, the main character is faced with the unbearable within the concentration camp, and she veers from the forces of of disbelief and denial to the realities of the situation she finds herself and her baby boy, Jan, in. She is confronted with the issues of trying to plan and complete an escape, with her baby and with Zana, her prison mate, to the issue of reuniting with Jakob, the baby’s father. Jakob is a Jew, and a doctor in the concentration camp. He is Marija’s lifeline.

Marija is in a constant state of flashbacks, flashbacks that constantly ramble on, intermingling with the present. I think that Kis was brilliant in portraying the situations of the past leading up to the imprisonment. His use of rambling self-dialogue is consistent with the circumstances Marija finds herself in.

There is a lot that is never told within the pages, and the reader has to sort those circumstances out, through underlying and subtle prose. For one thing, “Max” is the secret name given to the leader of the resistance within the camp. At times we think we might know who the person is, and at other times, we are at a loss to understand who is the actual person. It is not necessary to know, yet, the underlying hints did have me wondering.

Danilo Kis is masterful at details, leaving no minute detail unturned. His portrayal of Marija and Zana is vivid, and the reader’s senses are filled with the horrors and atrocities of their situation. Marija’s innermost feelings are prevalent and it is as if we are reading her mindset or inside her head.

Psalm 44, is a well-detailed book, filled with names of some individuals that have been changed for the story line, although the individuals did exist, in reality. The story is filled with metaphors for life and death, survival through strength of purpose and willpower, and filled with remarkable and brutal scenarios that take the reader’s breath away. The truths are told concisely and with precision, as he strives, quite successfully, to write with moral and ethical input.

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Dawn, by Elie Wiesel

Dawn, by Elie Wiesel is an excellent book that examines many issues, especially on good and evil, forgiveness, spirituality and identity.

“There are not a thousand ways to be a killer; either a man is one or he isn’t. He who has killed one man alone, is a killer for life…the executioner’s mask will always follow him.” This was Elisha’s dawn, his dawning.
During the years after World War II, terrorists in Palestine try to drive the British out. This dark, intensely written novel, focuses on a young Holocaust Survivor, Elisha, who has joined a group of Jewish militants. He has been assigned to be the executioner of a British officer.

The book fluctuates between Elisha’s ghosts of the past, Holocaust ghosts, and his present situation, as Elisha continually questions whether what he is doing is right, is for the larger good . We enter his mindset, literally, and feel his struggles between what is the moral thing to do, and, what one does, in what they believe to be in the best interests of their nation, and their historical group of individuals. His dilemma “dawns” on him, as he becomes aware, and strongly perceives the struggle he has to face…within himself. Dawn, is a word that does not necessarily imply sunrise, and in this novel, although the execution is to take place at sunrise; the impact and emotions of the situation, are deeper, and more vivid, and illuminate, within, more than any morning sunrise ever could. Elisha has an awakening, and a new life begins, unfolds, for him…one he can never return from.

We see how the militant group dynamics can encourage and persuade a young person, in the wake of a horrific trauma of their own, to commit an act, that under different circumstances, they might not involve themselves in.

Weisel’s intensity in writing, and his analyzing the events for what they are…conflict…on both sides of the coin…leaves one to question what components make up the mind of a murderer, and whether there is justification for violence and murder, for a political cause, under certain climates.

Although the Dawn’s copyright is 1961, the mindset of the militant group could apply to the world events, today, with the current terrorist situations. In fact, if events of The Holocaust were not mentioned in the book, one could assume that it might have been written today, its relevance to current events is so strong.

~~Book Diva

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