An appreciation blog for the magnificence of the man that is Markus Zusak, author of:
About Markus Zusak
Fighting Ruben Wolfe
Getting the Girl (When Dogs Cry)
I Am The Messenger (The Messenger)
The Book Thief
Bridge of Clay
"I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right." - Markus Zusak, The Book Thief.
And I absolutely loved it. It’s the kind of book that breaks your heart multiple times, but then subsequently fixes each break. It’s the kind of book that makes you feel the good kind of nauseous, because all this pain and beauty are hitting you where it hurts. It’s the kind of book that makes you dread, yet desperately want the last page. It’s the kind of book that changes you.
I’m not sure what I was expecting before I started reading, but it was definitely not this.
This book tore my heart out.
In retrospect, I probably should have read a synopsis, but I didn’t want to be tempted into reading the ending. So I walked into it blindly, and I was not disappointed.
The book is narrated by Death, which adds so much more to the story. Death has a lot to say, and is in the unique position to be completely honest. It’s a bystander, and since it’s everywhere—-thanks to World War II—-the plot moves quickly and fluidly.
This is what Death has to say about the story:
It’s just a small story really, about, among other things:
- A girl
- Some words
- An accordionist
- Some fanatical Germans
- A Jewish fist fighter
- And quite a lot of thievery
The book gives things away, but instead of ruining the surprise, it manages to lure you further into the story, until you live through the moments with the protagonist, Leisel, or, as in some cases, with Hans Hubermann, or Max.
The story is set in a German town outside Munich. And though it’s told from the viewpoint of a German girl, it doesn’t downplay the horrors that Jewish people went through during Hitler’s reign. Hitler is, in fact, the only enemy. Death is an outcome, rather than a willing participant.
The story is told beautifully, and though Death’s little interruptions become more and more frequent as the story progresses, they add a certain clarity to the prose.
Death’s interruptions go something like this:
THE BOOK THIEF—-LAST LINE
I have hated the words and
I have loved them,
and I hope I have made them right.
A LAST NOTE FROM YOUR NARRATOR
I am haunted by humans.
The end of the book, is perhaps, the most heart-wrenching. So much happens in 10 pages, and you emerge from the story with a better understanding of its themes:
- Guilt: Many of the characters experience guilt, either for putting someone else in danger, or for trying to live while others are dying.
- The power of words: this is perhaps the most obvious theme, since it’s the lesson Leisel learned most painfully.
Things I liked: Everything, really, but especially using Death as the narrator.
Things I didn’t like: The interruptions weren’t always necessary.
New Words: A lesson in German:
- Sau: pigs
- Saumensch: serves to castigate or humiliate a female.
- Saukerl: for male
- Aschloch: asshole (“That word, however, does not alternate between the sexes. It simply is.”)
- Apfel: apple
- Dummkopf: idiot
- Warte: wait
- Nachtrauern: regret
- Schweigen: silence
- Elend: misery
- Gelegenheit: opportunity
- Verzeihung: forgiveness
- Zufriedenheit: happiness
- Vielen Dank: many thanks
Recommendation: Read this book. Yes, it’s sad, but that’s the point. Why read something, if it doesn’t make you feel anything?
One thing I’ve noticed about the Germans: They seem very fond of pigs.