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GERMAN BOY

A REFUGEE’S STORY

It is hard to imagine that Samuel, as a boy, struggled to translate “Hast Du genug fur Heute?” (“Do you have enough food for...

First-time memoirist Samuel tells the story of life after WWII.

The author’s father was a Luftwaffe officer during the war. As the Reich begins to collapse in 1945, ten-year-old Samuel, his mother, and his sister flee Germany, making a terrifying and pitiful home for themselves in refugee camps. Eventually the family returns to Strasbourg, where Samuel begins to come to grips with two evils: the Nazi regime that ruled during the war, and the Communist apparat he now has to contend with. Later on his family moves to America, and (as we learn in the epilogue) Samuel goes on to serve in the US Air Force for three decades. The descriptions of the horrors of war and its aftermath are a touch too predictable to hold the reader’s attention, but Samuel’s portrait of life in Germany (especially in the innocent days before the Reich crumbled) are lovely and evocative and manage to humanize German civilians under Hitler. Especially moving are Samuel’s descriptions of his grandparents, Oma and Opa Samuel. They were the one sure source of love in young Samuel’s life—his mother never had a kind word for him, and she often pummeled him with a rug beater or locked him in a broom closet for hours on end. Oma is a font of wise aphorisms, however, and Opa subtly teaches Samuel to resist the Reich (instructing him to greet people with “Guten Morgen” instead of “Heil Hitler”). “My grandparents’ house was full of mysteries,” Samuel writes, as he goes on to describe his exploits in the Green Room (so-called for its thick, verdant velvet) and his first taste of liquor at his Opa’s knee.

It is hard to imagine that Samuel, as a boy, struggled to translate “Hast Du genug fur Heute?” (“Do you have enough food for today?”) into English—for now his prose sings (or, at least, whistles and hums some lovely tunes).

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2000

ISBN: 1-57806-274-8

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Univ. Press of Mississippi

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2000

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NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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