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The Beautiful Mrs. Seidenman

3.83  ·  Rating Details ·  612 Ratings  ·  62 Reviews
In the Nazi-occupied Warsaw of 1943, Irma Seidenman, a young Jewish widow, possesses two attributes that can spell the difference between life and death: she has blue eyes and blond hair. With these, and a set of false papers, she has slipped out of the ghetto, passing as the wife of a Polish officer, until one day an informer spots her on the street and drags her off to ...more
Paperback, 204 pages
Published March 21st 1997 by Grove Press (first published 1986)
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Agnieszka
Feb 04, 2016 Agnieszka rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own, favorites, reviewed, 2015

The action of Andrzej Szczypiorski’s novel The beginning takes place in Nazi occupied Warsaw at the turn of 1942-1943 but in the flashbacks we get a glimpse of other historical events like liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto in 1943 , Warsaw uprising in August 1944 , events of March 1968 and the wave of anti-Semitic hate campaign , street demonstrations and protests in December 1970 , election of Pole as a pope in October 1978 , martial law in 1981 . And such device helps the writer not only to c
...more
·Karen·
A curious brilliance

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On Both Sides of the Warsaw Ghetto by Israel Bernbaum

There. See it? A carousel. A carousel right up against the wall surrounding the Warsaw ghetto. Crashing cymbals and the taratata of drums, singing violins and dragging, mournful bass drown out the ominous onslaught of the four horses of the apocalypse, unleashed on the other side. The absurdity of such a thing is enough not just to knock Professor Winiar off his feet, but to knock his heart out of rhythm entirely. Heart-st
...more
Jonathan
Jun 06, 2014 Jonathan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, shoah
Ignore the blurb, the insipid front cover and the title (suggestive as it is of the 19thc, and of romance novels).

This book is something other.

A series of events occur to a series of characters in Warsaw. The temporal fulcrum of the text is 1943, and the fate of these men and women pivots here. We slip forward (sometimes right up to the 1980s) and back to comment upon and illuminate action taken or not taken during the darkest days of the war. There is much death, of course, but humour (often
...more
Margaret
May 23, 2016 Margaret rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Lovers of great literary novels
Recommended to Margaret by: Agnieszka
What an astonishing book The Beautiful Mrs. Seidenman is. Published in 1986 in Polish (entitled Pozatek) and beautifully translated into English by Klara Glowczewska in 1988, this book offers a portrait of Warsaw in 1942-43. The eponymous heroine is a Jewish widow who manages to pass for two years as not Jewish because her hair is blonde and her eyes are blue and because she tells the police her name is Maria Magdelena Gostomska and that she is the widow of an officer. This book tells the story ...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
Like God was the storyteller. The setting was 1943 Warsaw, Poland during the Nazi occupation. But it wouldn't have mattered if the setting was in another place or at another time. It was, among others, the brilliant style of narration which did it for this novel, something I had not seen before.

The blurb at the back of the book, and perhaps the title itself, are misleading. This is not just about Irma Seidenman, a young blue-eyed, blond, jewish widow who got a false identity but was betrayed and
...more
Connie
Irma Seidenman had been living under a false identity as a Polish officer's widow in Nazi-occupied Warsaw. She is recognized by a former acquaintance, and is arrested for being a Jew. A group of Polish people set up a plan to rescue her.

The interconnected chapters of the book are each devoted to a particular character or incident. Together, the stories give a composite picture of the people in Warsaw during World War II, and a glimpse into the future for them. The well-written book had complex c
...more
Edward
Nov 13, 2016 Edward rated it it was amazing
--The Beautiful Mrs. Seidenman

Translator's Notes
Anne
Oct 20, 2011 Anne rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in 1940s Warsaw.
Unique writing, beautifully portrays life during 1942-9143 Warsaw. The narrative jumps around between past, present and future and from one character to another. Though not easy to follow at times, this style gives an over-arching view of how lives are lost, saved or changed within the blink of an eye. Very philosophical at times, with beautiful sentences to savor that speak deep truths about life and people.
Lorenzo Berardi
The chief problem with Andrzej Szczypiorski for foreign readers is that tonguetwister of a surname he bore.

I wonder how many readers out of Poland have heard of Szczypiorski by word of mouth but cannot spell the author right. And how many non-Polish speaking librarians and booksellers might have been engaged in surreal conversations such as the following one:

Reader - Good morning, I'm looking for a book by this guy Sshz…Tzip…something like that. You got it?
Librarian - Morning. Well, I'm glad to
...more
Bill
Jan 20, 2011 Bill rated it it was amazing
this is a wonderful novel, filled with extremely beautiful writing. it is about jews living in nazi-occupied warsaw in 1943. i have read many books , both novels and non-fiction, about jewish people during the second world war, and this is one of the best i've read.

i can't imagine what it must have been like to spend your life in constant fear of hearing jackboots coming up the stairs to get you and your family, and being sent to almost certain death.fucking nazis.

i only have a couple of quibble
...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
Nov 03, 2012 Elizabeth (Alaska) rated it it was amazing
Mr. Szczypiorski, you had tears rolling down my cheeks so many times. They were not tears of sadness, rather more empathetic/sympathetic. Your book is about special friendships, the goodness of people, and selflessness. It is about a love of country and the feeling of unity and brotherhood among its citizens.

Warsaw, 1943. Jews were being literally slaughtered when they didn't just disappear. Sometimes wars are fought by soldiers, and sometimes by a civilian resistance. In WWII people also just t
...more
Ally Armistead
Feb 11, 2011 Ally Armistead rated it it was ok
Recommended me to by a professor I greatly admire, "The Beautiful Mrs. Seidenman" is a novel I very much wanted to love. All of the ingredients were there for an amazing story: WW II Poland, a Jewish widow in need of rescue, lyrical prose, an esteemed European author. And yet, somehow, I found myself struggling.

Part of the issue, as it always is in books we struggle with, is the lack of a coherent story. In all frankness, the book jacket description of the novel is far more amazing than the nove
...more
Ruth
Jul 09, 2012 Ruth rated it really liked it
Don't let the title fool you. This isn't really about Mrs.Seidenman, but rather about a group of characters, loosely connected by her. This is Warsaw under the Nazi occupation, and these characters circle and touch each other briefly, like dust motes in Brownian motion. In the midst of a character's actions, the author often pauses to give us a brief summary of what will happen in the rest of the character's life. All these threads are so deftly interwoven that the tapestry of the story is ...more
Bibliophile
May 16, 2009 Bibliophile rated it really liked it
The Beautiful Mrs. Seidenman is set in Warsaw in 1943, just before the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, when the beautiful Irma Seidenman, a Jewish widow who is blonde and blue-eyed enough to pass for Aryan and thus survive, is fingered by a Jewish informant to the Gestapo. A chain of helpers tries to free her, and through their stories, Andrzej Szczypiorski gives us a panorama of Poland under Nazi rule. If this sounds melodramatic, it isn't at all - his narrative style is one of cool detachment that occ ...more
Laura
Feb 25, 2015 Laura rated it it was amazing
Wow. For this book, that one-word review would also work.

I picked up this novel after reading about it on NPR - http://www.npr.org/2013/05/12/1823723...

If you can believe it, I don't think that even review does this book justice. In 2010, I stopped buying books. This is one of those books that makes me deeply regret that choice. Returning it to the library was painful. I want to read it again, and underline and mark and study and cry.

The book is a tapestry of Warsaw in summer 1943, on the eve o
...more
Meaghan
Meh. This book presents many very intriguing characters, but the author seems so wrapped up in his own ideas about Poles and the future of Poland that he seems to forget he is supposed to be telling a story here. There is no story. There is no suspense.

You already know from the beginning that Mrs. Seidenman will be rescued, because it says so on the dust jacket. (And, contrary to what the dust jacket says, the rescue was not "dramatic." It wasn't like they stormed the jail Bastille-style or anyt
...more
Louise
Feb 06, 2009 Louise rated it it was amazing
Absolutely wonderful, powerful, historically informative, lyrical at times without being sentimental. The language is so rich, full of description without being overwhelming. And the characters are complex and they are woven into the novel with incredible litereary skill. Never wanted it to end - though it has the power to stay with you.
Sarah
Jul 31, 2014 Sarah rated it it was amazing
quite possibly the most beautiful book in the world. beautiful language, a style as smooth as soft serve ice cream, and an engaging plot. this is the kind of book that i read and think, 'god put this author on earth to write this'.
Chrissie
Jan 17, 2011 Chrissie rated it it was ok
Shelves: religion, hf, poland, swap
NO SPÖILERS!!!

Well I finished it, and I am glad it is done. Yes, the author definitely has a way with words, so to test his writing style was an experience I will not forget. However, the humor is snide and dark. The characters lead such pitiful lives. Life is bleak and without warmth. This is a book of description. The reader does not live the life of the characters. The style is analytical and meant to arouse your thoughts. Each character is described, their personality and their specific acti
...more
Robert
Sep 08, 2016 Robert rated it really liked it
After already reading a book about the second World War, I wasn’t up to another one. Especially since this one focuses on Jews as well but The Beautiful Mrs. Seidenman is so great that I forgot all my complaints and got absorbed into the novel.

As such you could say that the book is a collection of short stories but they are loosely linked as the same characters re-occur. The woman of the title is a Jew who has, through illegal ways, becomes a Polish citizen. Her lover is a young man who tries to
...more
S.
Apr 01, 2012 S. rated it liked it
This was an interesting novel, set in Poland during WWII, and dealing with a handful of characters, gentile and Jewish. There was some playing with time that worked in an interesting way, mostly with the 3rd person narrator jumping into the future, telling you who lived or died.
Personally I felt the novel had a lot more potential than was realized - it could have been fleshed out a bit more. It kept its distance from its characters somehow. I never had the feeling they could be real, which is s
...more
Karen Michele
Dec 17, 2013 Karen Michele rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-5-star-books
This testament to the Polish people during WWII took me through a lovely and quiet Sunday morning. The writing was intriguing. The book could have been considered linked stories as that was the format of the writing. I recently read another book that told what would happen to characters in the future as the reader absorbed the details of the past and present and I find it an unusual but effective way to advance a narrative. Szczypiorski was particularly good at weaving in this technique. The ...more
Rosemary
Feb 14, 2014 Rosemary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-books
Totally beautiful prose and some amazing character studies.

The thing about this book is that it's not only about the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto, which obviously was a tragedy but is the subject of many other works too. This book also looks at the non-Jewish Polish people and even the German occupiers during the Second World War, showing how each person had an effect on the lives of the others. And in the end it's really about Poland and whether it can exist as an independent nation which when thi
...more
Pat
Mar 02, 2010 Pat rated it really liked it
Another one of these tragedies from world war II. Different peoples' lifes are narrated episodically through the chapters and suddenly persons we know from an earlier chapter cross each others ways. Some survive, some are abruptly dead, for no reason, which leaves us stunned. I vividly remember how for the first time when I read this book I was aware of this brutal randomness of the killing in a war.
Hermien
Feb 14, 2016 Hermien rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: jewish, wwi-ii
Great writing. In a very succinct but dry humorous way AS describes the various persons that touch on Mrs Seidenman's life, giving a description of their characters, motivations and how their lives end or continue after the war, which enhances the plot rather than spoiling it.
Vic
Dec 16, 2009 Vic rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone with good taste
*The Beautiful Mrs Seidenman* is perhaps the finest work of art I have encountered in the past 20 years. There is much more to say about it, but that's a good enough beginning.
Allison
Aug 21, 2015 Allison rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, genre-fiction
Very poignant, thoughtful and philosophical. Not a light read, but very well thought out.
Bookguide
This book wasn't at all what I had expected because I had expected it to be something like Bernard Schlink's The Reader describing one woman's experiences with the Nazis. In The Beautiful Mrs. Seidenman, Polish author Andrzej Szczypiorski tells far more stories because each chapter tells the experiences of one of the people who were connected to the incident with Mrs Seidenman, from the Jewish informer who handed her over to the Germans to the reluctant German who was charged with judging her ca ...more
Bookguide
Random notes made whilst reading:

P5 - The judge describes what freedom will be like after peace contrasted with the subjugation under the occupiers( nazis): at first 14 hours of slave labour a day, then "A few short years, and we'll be working eight-hour days, ration cards.... Building up children to be good workers , schools I own language. P6memtooms ArbeitMacht pFrei.
Comes into focus after visiting Auschwitz

P6/7 - Demiurges? Plumbers - Lech Wlaweska - year? "The day might come when they'll fl
...more
Kristel
REVIEW
A story of Poland told through several stories of people who are living in Warsaw, Poland and generally is set in WWII though it does span over several years and into more modern times. Poland is made up of many peoples who have identity with Poland; the Polish, the German, the Jewish and Russians. The characters were all intimately presented and we get to know their inner thoughts and how others see them. The author gave each person their unique voice but also was able to speak through hi
...more
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Born in Warsaw in 1924, Szczypiorski was a journalist and novelist. He took part in the Warsaw Uprising and was imprisoned after the fall of the Uprising in Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. He died on 16 May 2000.

He began working as a journalist in 1946. Since the appearance of his first collection of stories in 1955, he had published more than 20 volumes of novels, reportage, newspaper columns,
...more
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“Ah, my dear friend, cheer up... After all, we have peace! And because there is peace, the occupiers can't behave so abominably anymore. All right, we're not free. But we are used to that, Mr. Kujawski. After all we were both born into slavery, and we will die in it. Oh yes, at first they'll exploit us ruthlessly. Fourteen hours of slave labor a day. A bowl of watery soup. Whippings, beatings... But that will pass with time. Because there is peace, they won't have a chance to get any new slaves. They'll have to take good care of those have already. Cheer up, dear Mr. Kujawski... [...] Arbeit macht frei, work makes man free, and it makes him especially so in the sunshine of European peace. We will lack only one thing. Only one! The right of dissent. The right to say out loud that we want a free and independent Poland, that we want to brush our teeth and go on holiday in our own way, conceive children and work our own way, think in our own way, live and die. This is the one thing you will find missing in the sunshine of European peace, which you, my friend, hold to be the highest good.” 5 likes
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