The nightmare become daylight reality and pursued with a cold
logic... Auschwitz, Birkenau. Tadeusz Borowski spent the years from
1943-45 in concentration camps; released at the end of the war, he
could not come to terms with "the world of stone," killed himself.
But he had already written, if not the "immortal epic" he
envisioned, a series of incisive, indelible stories that form a
cumulative portrait of life in a concentration camp. The narrator
Tadek is a non-Jew, a Polish student, a prison laborer who at times
plays soccer while people walk on to the fake bathhouses, where the
prison diversion is the procession of the doomed and the only
charity, deceit as to their destination. Where Red Cross trucks
transport gas for the daily round and the pall of the chamber hangs
over each prisoner's head. Where on a night without soup even human
brains are considered for edibility. "There is no crime that man,
will not commit in order to save himself," the author declares
toward the close of these insights into the determination to
survive. The anguished vision cost him his life; it remains a
telling legacy. (Kirkus Reviews)
Published in Poland after World War II, this collection of concentration camp stories shows atrocious crimes becoming an unremarkable part of a daily routine. Prisoners eat, work, sleep, and fall in love a few yards from where other prisoners are systematically slaughtered. The will to survive overrides compassion, and the line between the normal and the abnormal wavers, then vanishes. Borowski, a concentration camp victim himself, understood what human beings will do to endure the unendurable. Together, these stories constitute not only a masterpiece of Polish - and world - literature but stand as cruel testimony to the level of inhumanity of which man is capable.
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