Sunday, February 17, 2013

"The Book thief" by Markus Zusak - review of a fascinating work of fiction 

The years between 1930-45 have been the subject of a lot many stories and interpretations. Numerous writers have presented their view of those horrendous years with stunning clarity and insight. Almost every form of art has borrowed heavily from the leitmotifs of those cataclysmic years molding our understanding of the evil that men committed in the name of race and religion. But no book in my opinion has had the temerity to look at those melancholy times through the innocent eyes of a young adult. Markus Zusak does just that. The period of Nazi occupation is brilliantly captured in translucent prose through Liesel - a young girl, who lives as a foster child in the home of a German family. Internally torn by a strange sense of estrangement : outwardly , the world around her transforming itself into a mire of insecurity and deep fear ; witnessing the physical and moral consequences of non conformance to Nazi doctrines; finding deep love and sympathy from unknown quarters; struggling with pangs of unrequited bubbling physical passion and the agony of severance from people close to her - told in lyrical, haunting and profound language through the voice of Death - the protagonist of this novel . It is Death himself, who follows the life of Liesel through the turbulent times through the words penned by young Liesel, who loves to steal books and read and also write; finding solace in the written word for herself as well for others. Every word that she reads helps her comprehend a little more of the world, and the times she is living in. Markus's mellifluous control of the medium of fiction helps him effortless paint his canvas with alternating hues of Darkness and light. And his characterization is humane, gentle with mild streaks of evil laced in between.

This book is primarily meant for Young adults, but the subject touches the lives of all of us. Markus's writing reminds me of another book( belonging to a different theme) that was given to me many years ago, by my very literate friend and colleague Sandeep Godhkindi. The book was called " The curious incident of a dog in the night-time", by Mark Haddon . The same graceful felicity of words, the deft strokes of remarkably evocative expressions, supported by a compelling story line defines "The book thief" as well. In fact, when Sandeep gave me that book, I was reluctant to read it at first; but then It couldn't put it down once I had started it. "The book thief" will also leave us with the same taste that will linger on, long after the last word has been read .

A remarkable effort .Only a writer of Zusak's talent could make this story plausibly work, and coud get away with such a proliferation of adjectives and adverbs, to write in a manner that revitalizes the language ,and use words to paint emotion and a vivid visual landscape in a way that is breathtaking. This is a book about the power of words and language, and it is fitting that is written in this form.

We look forward to more of his work.........

God bless ..........

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