A powerful, compassionate novel dealing with the brutalizing effects of war is set in Poland, W.W. II. Fifteen-year-old Stas emerges from his cellar cocoon and scours the city's twilight world of death, filth and corruption where ""human was synonymous with thief."" He searches for food to prolong his doubtful existence. Fleeing the city in terror, he collapses and is sheltered by Pani, an old peasant who tries to help and calm him. Her cellar room, at first a prison, becomes a shaky paradise with each nail and board a bastion of security. Stas slowly removes his dirt-mask and performs a final exorcism by returning to the city and killing the degenerate Michel, once a forced companion. He now dreams of finding his two symbols of light- his teacher Wiersynski and a shadowy girl whose talisman he carries. Pani (the indurate Everywoman) sympathizes and struggles for answers, ""If you can't find a sensible one, you find a mad one."" There are few answers here but a lingering optimism as Pani asks for time. Regrettably, too much time has passed for optimism about this book's market.