Tuesday, April 25, 2017

"Life with a Star"

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If I could add a book to the "required reading" list in high schools, it would be Life with a Star by the Czech author Jiri Weil. 

Its main character is a Jew in Prague who is attempting to survive as repression by the Nazis steadily increases. The book's power comes from its understatement. The Germans are always referred to as "they" and the protagonist's daily challenges, which often involve finding enough to eat or figuring out how to get from one place to another without attracting undue attention, are powerful and memorable.

An excerpt:

"Hello, sheriff!" a boy called to me. And everyone laughed, but I knew they weren't laughing at me. I laughed too. It was a funny thing to be going about with this emblem. It was a masquerade that was alien to a world where people worked. It belonged to a fair, to a Punch and Judy show, to somersaults, powdered faces, and kicks in the behind.

Weil managed to elude the death camps by faking his death and hiding in Prague. His other Holocaust-related novel, Mendelssohn Is on the Roof, is also excellent but Life with a Star has a quiet message that never leaves you.

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