Book choice for January

If This Is A Man / The Truce [suggested by Richard Layfield]

front cover

The author was imprisoned in Auschwitz from March 1944 to January 1945.  Of the 650 Jews who entered the camp with him, 525 went to the gas chamber.  He survived, and here describes his experience during those ten months.  He explains the writing of this book as a need felt by all the survivors; 'the need to tell our story to 'the rest', to make the rest participate in it; the book has been written to satisfy this need: first and foremost, therefore, as an interior liberation.'  He writes simply, elegantly, precisely about his experience.  It is utterly matter-of-fact - not a hint of sensation, self-indulgence, or self pity.  And the effect upon the reader is exactly that which he sought for himself in telling the tale; an interior liberation.  To look at the worst that man can do, and know that the best cannot be destroyed by it.  [Review by Jane Rogers at Amazon]

Wikipedia entry.

About the Author

Primo Michele Levi (July 31, 1919 - April 11, 1987) was a Jewish-Italian chemist, Holocaust survivor and author of memoirs, short stories, poems, essays and novels.

He is best known for his work on the Holocaust, and in particular his account of the year he spent as a prisoner in Auschwitz, the death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.  If This Is a Man (published in the United States as Survival in Auschwitz) has been described as one of the most important works of the twentieth century.

Wikipedia entry.

 

Shortlisted for this month

The nominator can now decide whether to bring one, two, or three books to be chosen by the group (or mandated in the case of only one book being selected).  This month, Richard also brought the following erudite selections:

Contempt

Contempt

After a second reading of Contempt, I feel compelled to call the short, tautly written novel a masterpiece.  Told from the perspective of a neurotic egotist, the narrator accounts how he "sacrificed" his literary writing career to debase himself in the tawdry task of writing screenplays so that he can afford to lavish his wife with more opulent living quarters.  The narrator convinces himself that not only does his wife not appreciate his "sacrifice," but that she no longer loves him.  It's horrifying to read this narcissist's account of his marital disintegration.  Close reading reveals that the narrator never sacrificed his writing career for his wife's opulent tastes, but rather is debasing his writing talents for his own greedy materialistic acquistion.
[Abridged from a review on Amazon by M Jeffrey McMahon]

About the Author

Alberto Moravia (November 28, 1907 - September 26, 1990), born Alberto Pincherle - the pen-name "Moravia" is the surname of his maternal grandfather - was born in Rome to a wealthy middle-class family.  His Jewish father, Carlo, was an architect and a painter.  His Catholic mother, Teresa Iginia de Marsanich, was from Ancona but of Dalmatian origin.

Moravia contracted tuberculosis at the age of nine which prevented him finishing conventional schooling.  Confined to bed for five years, he devoted himself to reading books: some of his favourite authors included Dostoevsky, Joyce, Ariosto, Goldoni, Shakespeare, Molière, Mallarmé.  He learned French and German, and wrote poems in both languages.

In 1925 he moved to Brixen, where he wrote his first novel, Gli Indifferenti (Time of Indifference), published in 1929.  The novel is a realistic analysis of the moral decadence of a middle-class mother and two of her children.  In 1927 he started his career as a journalist with the magazine 900, which published his first short stories.  He eventually became one of the leading Italian novelists of the twentieth century whose novels explore matters of modern sexuality, social alienation, and existentialism, and is best known for his anti-fascist novel Il Conformista (The Conformist), the basis for the film The Conformist (1970) by Bernardo Bertolucci.  Several more of his novels translated to film, including Contempt, filmed by Jean-Luc Godard as Le Mépris (Contempt) (1963). [biog abridged from his Wikipedia entry]

The Trial

The Trial

A terrifying psychological trip into the life of one Joseph K., an ordinary man who wakes up one day to find himself accused of a crime he did not commit, a crime whose nature is never revealed to him.  Once arrested, he is released, but must report to court on a regular basis - an event that proves maddening, as nothing is ever resolved.  As he grows more uncertain of his fate, his personal life - including work at a bank and his relations with his landlady and a young woman who lives next door - becomes increasingly unpredictable.  As K. tries to gain control, he succeeds only in accelerating his own excruciating downward spiral.

Wikipedia entry.

About the Author

Franz Kafka (3 July 1883 - 3 June 1924) was one of the major fiction writers of the 20th century.  He was born to a middle-class German-speaking Jewish family in Prague.  His unique body of writing - much of which is incomplete and which was mainly published posthumously - is considered by some people to be among the most influential in Western literature.

His stories, such as The Metamorphosis (1915), and novels, including The Trial (1925) and The Castle (1926), concern troubled individuals in a nightmarishly impersonal and bureaucratic world.

Further extensive biography notes are available from his Wikipedia entry]

 

Previous Months' Book Choices

November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006