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The Warsaw Anagrams

by Richard Zimler

Set in the cramped squalor of Warsaw’s Jewish ghetto, this darkly atmospheric story packs an emotional punch. Narrated by a dead man’s spirit this is no tale of heroic survival. The style is an intriguing mix of wartime brutality and an emotional insight into the harshness and yet humanity of everyday life; astounding courage contrasted with despair. As a fast-moving, psychoanalytical thriller this is much more than a holocaust tribute novel.

Extract

That night, I woke with a start and lit my carbide lamp, unsure now whether I’d really added her name. Staring at Stefa Liska, I wondered about the power of our names to alter our destiny, until the letters lifted off the paper. Soon, all the names of the dead – my dead – were floating in the pearly blue light, like butterflies kept aloft by a wind made of my own thoughts. The effect was pretty, but I knew it was only an optical trick; and yet the longer I kept my eyes on them, the more Stefa’s and Adam’s names seemed wrong – misspelled or mistakenly given to them. So I started rearranging their sequence of letters, which was when it occurred to me that this must have been why I’d made the list in the first place: to find the new names we ought to have given ourselves to protect us from the Germans and all the evils they’d brought with them.

Parallels

The Spies of Warsaw by Alan Furst
Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky
 

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