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Chasing the King of Hearts

by Hanna Krall

Written in a series of brief, headed chapters, this is a novel of the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942, and its aftermath. Izolda is Jewish but doesn't look it, and expends a lot of effort trying to conceal her identity. Her husband is caught by the Gestapo and sent to Auschwitz, and Izolda sets out to find and release him, but eventually also ends up in the camp. The author manages to convey the horrors of that time, but in a superbly understated way.

Extract

The German with the same colouring as the doctor from Vilna lowers his glasses and writes out, very meticulously: Maria Pawlicka. She takes her pass and crosses into the ghetto (through the theatre warehouse) but right away is stopped by a German gendarme who doesn't like the look of her permit. He rips it in half and sends her back to the Aryan side. She shows the torn pieces to the clerk. So is that all your piece of paper is worth?
Translated by Philip Boehm

Parallels

Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne
 

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