Beatrice and Virgil

Howdy, friends.

I just finished this book:

It took me a while to get into it, and I’m not sure if that is because of the story or because it was the first book I read on my Nook (which I now really like). I thought “Life of Pi” was just OK, so I didn’t know what to expect. But it was an e-book available at the library, so I just went with it. About halfway through, I was hooked, and pretty much devoured it.

It brought up a lot of feelings in me, and I am haunted by some of the questions at the end. You’ll see from them that this is a Holocaust allegory (why do I read SO many World War II books?). Here are some of them I can’t stop thinking about. The worst is they are REAL questions that people had to actually answer. I can barely wrap my mind around that kind of horror and grief.

“Your ten-year-old son is speakingto you. He says he has found a way of obtaining some potatoes to feed your starving family. If he is caught, he will be killed. Do you let him go?”

“You are a barber. You are working in a room full of people. You shear them and hten they are led away and killed. You do this all day, every day. A new group is brought in. You recognize the wife and sister of a good friend. They recognize you too, with joy in their eyes. You embrace. They ask you what is going to happen to them. What do you tell them?”

“You are holding your granddaughter’s hand. Neither of you is well after hte long trip with no food or water. Together you are taken to the “infirmary” by a soldier. The place turns out to be a pit where people are being “cured with a single pill,” as the soldier puts it, that is, with a single shot to the back of the head. The pit is full of bodies, some of them still moving. There are six people ahead of you in the line. Your granddaughter looks up at you and asks you a question. What is that question?”

There are more, all haunting.

Here are two reviews of the book: NYTimes and Washington Post. The book gets pretty crappy reviews, especially by the New York Times. And I agree with some of it, but then the last part of the book was so striking, I decided I could maybe forgive the whole first two-thirds. The Times calls it “perverse.” And it kind of is, and odd. But I did love a lot of the writing in the play within the novel.

Anyway. There you have it.

Happy running.

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