The Books, The Accordion, 13 Gifts and The Basement

Sometimes when I think of the terrible events that took place in the 20th century, I can’t bring myself to rank them in the order of their horrendous nature. It just doesn’t make sense that man who is the self proclaimed most intelligent animal, can change himself and so many others into monsters. Over the last few years, I’ve been reading the recollections of the people who witnessed the holocaust and shudder at just the thought of such a thing happening. But reading “The Book Thief” gave me the perspective of those who were suffering just as much, even though they had the right color of the eyes needed in those times, just because their hearts were in the right place. It must be so much easier to be heartless rather than having a conscientious heart to see horrid things happening around you.
                       “The Book Thief” is a wonderful narration of Liesel’s story by “Death”, penned down for us mortals by Markus Zusak. Interestingly enough, even though my eyes have leaked on reading the recollections of people from those times, this book evoked not a single tear! May be because it was “Death” narrating it. It told about people who were just trying to survive the hard times, surrounded and tortured by those who believed in the strange ideas of their ruler. And why was it that the world had to see not one but many such maniacs who got the power to decide the fate of so many lives? Was it just something to do with the confluence of stars or was it some higher force’s way of punishing the earth people? I guess no one has the answer to such questions.
                           Coming back to the book, I was touched by the sadness in the heart of Hans Hubermann who was saved in two wars – once by a friend and the next time by a not-a-friend. His love for his foster daughter Liesel is so much about understanding and kindness, that it just breaks your heart when his own son calls him a coward for not being part of the ideology that most of the country was so eager to follow! His wife Rosa is another tortured soul who has the same goodness of heart as him, but who just has her own way of expressing it / hiding it.
            Then there’s Rudy – Liesel’s best friend, who is not afraid to show his derision for whatever he finds wrong and then being punished for it. Max – who is trying to survive, while dying a thousand deaths of shame at the thought of  putting the family, that’s protecting him, in danger. There are so many “Life” stories, seen by “Death” who had a busy time during those years. All of them with their own secrets, with their own burdens and a common burden of survival.
         Now one could say it’s a fiction while the others are real stories. But I think the stories in this book are also real. There were definitely people like these during those times – who helped the “hunted ones”. And this book shows the time from another vantage point – from that of a small girl who happened to live in those times.


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