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Le Pianiste by W. Szpilman
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Le Pianiste (original 1999; edition 2003)

by W. Szpilman

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1,540244,768 (4.28)41
Member:david6244
Title:Le Pianiste
Authors:W. Szpilman
Info:Pocket Jeunesse (2003), Poche, 252 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
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The Pianist: The Extraordinary True Story of One Man's Survival in Warsaw, 1939-1945 by Władysław Szpilman (Author) (1999)

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English (21)  Spanish (2)  French (1)  All (24)
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
How do you review a memoir of the Holocaust? I've been looking for a way to start this review for 30 minutes and I am still not sure what a review should be.

Szpilman's story of his survival in Warsaw during WWII is heartbreaking and almost understated. It is almost as if he believe it was nothing special - that it just happened. And yet, he never got sent to a camp as most of the Warsaw Jews (partially due to luck, partially because of his own ingenuity), he did not get shot as a lot of the ones that somehow were left in the city, he never ended up in a prison or worse. But not because he sold out to the Germans - he lived in the Ghetto and refused to enter the police, he lived in hiding despite people cheating and people dying around him. And at the end, it was a German officer that made sure that he was clothed and fed enough to survive until the city was liberated.

The Warsaw Ghetto is one of the best known horror stories of the war - together with the camps and the gas chambers. But in most memoirs I had read, people end up out of Warsaw to survive. Szpilman never leaves the city - he hides and survives fire and cold; he even survives when his name is selected to be sent with one of the cattle carts that moved people out from the Ghetto. He lost his whole family and more than once he was ready to die - just to find a reason to live again.

The fall and liberation of Warsaw are bracketed by two renditions of Chopin's Nocturne in C sharp minor - the last thing to run on the radio before the broadcasting location was shelled; 6 years later, Szpilman is performing the same on the newly restarted Polish radio.

The story is written immediately after the war and one expects it to be bitter or disillusioned. But it is not - Szpilman sound almost detached from the horrors and the unspeakable tragedy he is describing. And somewhere in that story, there is also a German that saves him when everyone else had left.

The book contains not only the memoir of the Polish musician but also parts of the diary of that German, Wilm Hosenfeld, - showing that not everyone in Germany was part of the machine - even when they were part of the army. One of the tragedies of the times is that he was killed despite him helping more than one Jew - not in the war but in the Soviet POW camps after that, partially because they did not believe him.

It is a story of healing and acceptance. A way to exorcise the demons so the life can continue. Or a way to say everything that is in a man heart so space can be made for new and better memories. Whatever the reason, it is one of the memoirs that should be read.

The fact that the German officer had to be changed to an Austrian so it can be published in the new Poland after the war shows clearly that the war taught humanity nothing. The fact that it was pulled out soon after publishing and never republished until the times changed due to the Ukrainian and Baltic helpers of Germany being shown clearly is unfortunate and direct result of the split of the continent after the end of the war. (the afterword of that edition is more informative than usual). The war that should have united everyone ended up with the world split worse than ever. And humanity is still healing. But that is a different story. And not part of this book. ( )
4 vote AnnieMod | Jan 17, 2017 |
Compelling page turner. ( )
  randybabbs | Sep 30, 2016 |
An amazing story. ( )
  JennysBookBag.com | Sep 28, 2016 |
On September 23, 1939, Wladyslaw Szpilman played Chopin's Nocturne in C sharp minor as bombs e plodded around him. His whole family is eventually killed,but he somehow manages to survive. ( )
  creighley | Jun 28, 2016 |
This is the first book I've read that made me want to cry. Even though I had seen the film and of course the title gives it away that he survives.
I liked that there had been an appendix added to the book that told you more about the German officer that helped numerous people escape from the Nazis not just Szpilman.
For me one of the most heartbreaking parts is a sentence at the end of the third chapter 'There was a special section devoted to the Jews: they were guaranteed all their rights, the inviolability of their property, and that their lives would be absolutely secure.' ( )
  KarenDuff | Jun 1, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Szpilman, WładysławAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bell, AntheaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Biermann, WolfAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cohen, BernardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dautzenberg, TheoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hosenfeld, WilmAuthorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Szpilman, AndrzejForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wolff, KarinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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On September 23, 1939, the great Polish classical pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman played a Chopin nocturne live on the radio, but the shells blasting at a nearby window were so loud he could not hear his piano. Germany was invading Warsaw, and German occupation of this city meant that unanswerable murder and unspeakable cruelty would soon be daily, inescapable realities. But sometimes a person can escape the inescapable: The Pianist offers the amazing, often shocking true story of Szpilman's survival amid the rampant inhumanity of the Holocaust.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312311354, Paperback)

Written immediately after the end of World War II, this morally complex Holocaust memoir is notable for its exact depiction of the grim details of life in Warsaw under the Nazi occupation. "Things you hardly noticed before took on enormous significance: a comfortable, solid armchair, the soothing look of a white-tiled stove," writes Wladyslaw Szpilman, a pianist for Polish radio when the Germans invaded. His mother's insistence on laying the table with clean linen for their midday meal, even as conditions for Jews worsened daily, makes palpable the Holocaust's abstract horror. Arbitrarily removed from the transport that took his family to certain death, Szpilman does not deny the "animal fear" that led him to seize this chance for escape, nor does he cheapen his emotions by belaboring them. Yet his cool prose contains plenty of biting rage, mostly buried in scathing asides (a Jewish doctor spared consignment to "the most wonderful of all gas chambers," for example). Szpilman found compassion in unlikely people, including a German officer who brought food and warm clothing to his hiding place during the war's last days. Extracts from the officer's wartime diary (added to this new edition), with their expressions of outrage at his fellow soldiers' behavior, remind us to be wary of general condemnation of any group. --Wendy Smith

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:19 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

A Jewish pianist's real-life account of survival in World War II Warsaw. Separated in a mêlée, he fights to rejoin his family as they board the death train, but police block him. "Papa!" he cries. The father waves, "as if I were setting out into life and he was already greeting me from beyond the grave."… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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