My first venture into Ian McEwan's writing, this book is easily among my favorites; the book itself is short and cerebrally disturbing. After three chMy first venture into Ian McEwan's writing, this book is easily among my favorites; the book itself is short and cerebrally disturbing. After three children lose their father (while he is in the midst of constructing a substantial cement 'garden' in their backyard), their mother slowly descends into her own death.
Unsure of what to do, the children take the mother's body and dispose of it in a trunk, in the house's basement. ...more
Pushkin, of course, is the master of Russian literature. While Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, etc, are more well-recognized in the West as 'seminal figures' ofPushkin, of course, is the master of Russian literature. While Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, etc, are more well-recognized in the West as 'seminal figures' of Russian literature, it is Pushkin who truly embodies Russian storytelling.
The translation of "The Captain's Daughter" (a novella, 140 pp) was excellent. Were this collection rated on the novella alone, it would easily get five stars.
However, the rest of the stories in the collection (about another 150 pp) suffered, unfortunately, from stilted and occasionally confused translating. A shame, too, because Pushkin's stories are really meant to be simple and easily understood.
Much like a Russian O. Henry, Pushkin generally thrives on the ironic. His storytelling is spartan: only the most basic details are provided, but each story is heartfelt, simple, and quite beautiful.
There is a strong selection of stories in this collection, and overall, the storytelling is very good. The translation could be improved, but is fairly readable; it's a shame that the translation can bog down the flow of Pushkin's stories....more
In finishing the novella, I remain wholly unenthusiastic about its premise and conclusion. The characters were adequately developed: Gillian, Andre, aIn finishing the novella, I remain wholly unenthusiastic about its premise and conclusion. The characters were adequately developed: Gillian, Andre, and Dorcas made the [un?] holy trinity of main characters. The peripheral, secondary characters seemed heavy handed: Sybil? Marisa? ...They seemed written in as part of another story line that was never quite developed or integrated.
It's incidental to me that while the book takes place at a women's college, ostensibly among close friends, each action and behavior seemed totally encapsulated in the individual character. There is little non-superficial interaction between anyone, excite for Gillian's insipid fawning. Maybe that was the point, that each individual is completely isolated from one another ... but were that the intention, I remain even less impressed with this work.
I expected the book to fit more into the tradition of being John Fowles-esque, insofar as the character becomes very much a victim of others behaviors. For me, the main problem was that there wasn't enough struggle, there wasn't' enough conflict internalized by the characters. ...more
It is difficult, with a moat of sixty years and an intellectual barricade of countless other World War II and Holocaust-related reading, to adequatelyIt is difficult, with a moat of sixty years and an intellectual barricade of countless other World War II and Holocaust-related reading, to adequately begin to review this collection of short stories from Tadeusz Borowski. Falling back into the same reiteration of virtually all Holocaust/post-war writings is almost too easy: "This book serves as a reminder of the atrocities of war ...", "this book demonstrates how terrible man can be..." etc, etc, ad infinitum. Ad nauseum. The sorts of blanket recognitions and statements about Holocaust writing do not, in general, do either post-war mentalities, nor the atrocities of the event, justice: they provide an automated recognition of the war, but without truly instigating thought, consideration, and insight of what actually happened.
In many respects, This Way for the Gas ... establishes itself as a remarkably unique piece of post-war Holocaust writing. While Borowski himself was a kapo in Auschwitz, his experience there was vastly different from many others who passed through the camp. His lifestyle was comparatively luxuriant: he was afforded packages from home, 'organised' (stolen) goods from around the camp, and generally held a position of relatively power over the fellow inmates. Because he was a Pole (rather than a Jew or a Russian), Borowski possessed a substantial advantage over many of the most barbaric treatments at Auschwitz. Additionally, being selected as a kapo forced his participation in many of the very atrocities ocurring at Auschwitz: Borowski was likely feared and despised by many of the inmates under him in the camp's hierarchy.
The writing is terse, resigned, and strikingly detached. Concurrently with This Way for the Gas ..., I was reading 'Auschwitz' (by L. Rees). In this latter book, Rees stipulates that how many concentration camp workers managed to survive, despite the crushing mental and physical burdens, was in effectively detaching oneself from the surroundings. The behavior of detaching oneself from ones' environment is exemplified throughout 'This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen.' Borowski himself creates a mental barricade between himself and his surroundings; in one scene he discusses playing keeper during a football game with other inmates. Between one out-of-bounds and a second, he sees a trainload (approximately five thousand) of people sorted, selected, and gassed only a few hundred meters from where he is playing.
The frankness (and, to us, callousness - though at the time, such responses were likely appropriate and acceptable given the circumstance) of the prose makes Borowski's works difficult to read. Inevitably, there is the comparison to Wiesel's 'Night' (another magnificent piece of writing), but the similarities, outside of being narratives of concentration camp survivors, are few. While Wiesel's writing is humane, gutwrenching, and almost impossibly difficult to read, Borowski's is so lacking of humanity, warmth, and compassion that it's nearly more difficult to read than Wiesel's writing. Borowski doesn't seem to be completely devoid of humanity, but the demonstrated acceptance of the conditions around him do not provide as distinct a demarcation as Wiesel's writings: inmates are not consistently helpless victims, nor are SS guards always the most brutal of characters.
Borowski's writing remains one of the most complex pieces I have ever read. There are many levels to what he has written, and his reflections and thoughts are inconsistent with their acceptance and understanding of his environment. Like much else written during the time, he ultimately is an individual trying desperately to cope with a decidedly inhuman, catastrophic situation as best he can. ...more