THE SURVIVOR by James Forman


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Although Forman's tendency to let the sociologist in him eclipse the artist is more evident than ever, the saga of the Ullman family and, especially, of David who survives Auschwitz where his twin brother dies, is grim and deeply affecting. From the beginning, the boys' father Abraham Ullman is blinded by his own humanism and refuses to consider resistance even when the family is forced into a last minute hiding place, in a cellar under a windmill. At the opposite pole is sister Ruth, who joins the Underground and lives up to her chosen alias of Salome by dancing on her way to the gas chamber. . . and killing a camp guard before she dies. But the psychological battle is really joined between David and Saul, as one twin's determination to live stiffens while the other becomes one of the walking dead camp inmates call Musselmen. Forman doesn't stint on the horrible details and perhaps, considering the intended audience, some narrative distancing and interpretation is essential. Nevertheless, the style of commentary (""Suffering seldom ennobles the character. Often it drives men toward brutality. . ."") does work to make the Ullmans experience more representative, and less immediate. Within the limitations of its intention--which is more to assimilate the impact of the Holocaust than to express any new insight--this is an impressive accomplishment indeed.

Pub Date: April 15th, 1976
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux