A Good Day to you, for in truth it is one, but more of that later for as one is a guest here, politeness is paramount. Now, reason suggests you may be a tad curious as to why my presence is warranted here on The Parrish Lantern, although with all honesty reason played no part in my decision, it was merely a cocktail of curiosity and happenstance – some routine from my day job had me close by and I’m told I can be very persuasive. But enough of that, politeness again holds up it’s hand and suggest that I’ve prevaricated more than would be necessary for any building of suspense.
The Book Thief by Australian writer Markus Zusak, although narrated by me (hadn’t you guessed?) is set in Nazi Germany and concerns Liesel Meminger, amongst others, although to be honest, it’s mainly her and her relationships with others and what a list of others there are, for example here are a few..
Hans Hubermann & Rosa Hubermann – foster parents
Max Vandenburg – Jewish fist fighter
Rudy Steiner – friend
The residents of Himmel street (Himmel = Heaven)
Ilsa Hermann – the mayor's wife
Jesse Owen (although not in person)
Oh and we mustn’t forget Hitler, although like all great Bogymen, he’s best viewed looking down from some nightmare. This isn’t anywhere near the complete list but it will give you an idea of the Book thief's world.
We first see Liesel, beside a railway track with her mother and her brother (the reason I was there) and two railway guards arguing what they should do with the corpse, they had a lot less tact than I. After her brother is buried in some graveyard, Liesel and her mother continued their journey to Molching, where she would be fostered by Hans Hubermann & Rosa Hubermann. The reason for the fostering is to distance the children from their parents’ known communist sympathies.
It is at the graveyard where he brother lays, that Liesel steals her first book - The Grave Digger’s Handbook and although she cannot read, she keeps it as a reminder of her brother.
I believe I’ve mentioned curiosity before and, were it possible, I believe it would be the death of me (apologies for the humour, but it’s sometimes needed), anyway suffice it to say, curiosity got the better of me and I visited Liesel’s world a couple more times, the last time was heartrending, and yes contrary to rumour I do feel these things. Himmel street became hell on earth
“For hours the sky remained a devastating home-cooked red. the small German town had been flung apart one more time. Snowflakes of ash fell so lovelily you were tempted to stretch out your tongue to catch them, taste them. Only they would have scorched your lips. They would have cooked your mouth.”
And believe me when I say, I know of hell! “ I wanted to stop. To crouch down. I wanted to say. “I’m sorry child”. But that is not allowed. I did not crouch down. I did not speak.”. All I could do was watch and when she moved, so did I, at some point during that maelstrom of grief she dropped the book and at some point I picked it up.
It’s at this point in the current proceedings I think it wise, prudent and better still – of a polite nature - to hand you back to the regular writer of The Parrish Lantern, but first I shall once again bid a Good Day to you and to state that it is one - for now I leave empty-handed.
D. E. Ath.
It’s through death’s taking of the book we learn about Liesel’s world, about her wonderful foster father and her sharp tongued and yet immensely loving foster mother, we learn about a small town near Munich on a road that for some ends with Dachau. It's also through death, we learn of honour and courage, we learn the story of a Jewish fist fighter and we learn of love in all it’s many forms. We also learn of the absolute mundanity of evil - from the sly boot when one is down right up to the subjugation and genocide of a people, because one of death’s problems is..
“I am haunted by humans”
This was a book I had expected to dislike, it seemed to be not sure if it were a book for adults or proudly YA, like a teenager caught in a netherworld between these two points the book was fluctuating between both axis and yet…. I loved it. I read it because it is one of the books for World Book Night and I needed a book that my daughter and I could both get behind, both support with an understanding of it’s content (if asked by others). Did I say I loved it, that I have a queue of colleagues wanting to borrow this on the strength of my vocal adoration of it. This is a book about the power of language, of words and how they may appear inert, merely tools for our use to be put away when not needed, but in reality they have the power to change all, there’s a quote in The Last Evenings on Earth by Roberto Bolano, that with slight word change would fit here…
"The secret story is the one we'll never know, although we're living it from day to day, thinking we're alive, thinking we've got it all under control and the stuff we overlook doesn't matter. But every single damn thing matters! Only we don't realize. We just tell ourselves that art runs on one track and life, our lives, on another, and we don't realize that's a lie."
This is also a book of the ten separate books that map Liesel’s world, but they don’t delineate it, like all good maps they show what’s there, but also the paths to what isn’t.