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The Journey (Plume) [Paperback]

Ida Fink , Joanna Weschler , Francine Prose

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Book Description

24 Jun 1993 Plume
Fink's spare, understated prose speaks volumes about the horrors of the Holocaust. Through carefully chosen details, she shows us the hatred and the cold, calculated evil that existed in people's heart. Destined to become a classic in the literature of the Holocaust.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: New American Library; Reprinted edition edition (24 Jun 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452270154
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452270152
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13.5 x 1.8 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,557,722 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spellbinding 24 July 2005
By David Rabenowitz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Ida Fink has written a memorable novel that appears to be autobiographical. She follows the wartime life of two sisters as they attempt to escape capture in wartime Germany. Her description of their encounters with ordinary German citizens as well as police and SS at times had me reaching for the next page to see if they made it. This book showed me another way that Jews survived WWII.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hill - student review 12 Dec 2006
By S. Hill - Published on Amazon.com
The Journey (copyright 1992) written by Ida Fink is a work of Holocaust literature about two Jewish sisters struggling to survive the persecution of the Jews in 1942 Poland. The novel, an auto-biographical fiction, was originally written in Yiddish and published in Poland, but was translated into English by Joanna Weschler and Francine Prose. Fink's ultimate purpose of writing the novel is to show the inhumanity of genocide. By using juxtaposition of the cruel, passive behaviors of the non-Jews and the delicate lives of the girls, she reminds the reader of the difficulty of being a Jew during the war. She uses the strong, underlying theme of survival to bring attention to the era, now known as the Holocaust, and show the immense effects it had on real human lives.

Fink, a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor, writes from experience of hiding her own Jewish identity through the war. She was born in 1921. After escaping Poland in 1942, she lived in disguise among Polish farm workers inside Germany. Now living in Israel, she is the author of 3 novels, including The Journey and two other short Holocaust fictions: A Scrap in Time and Traces. Though her books are fictional, they contain many auto-biographical elements from her knowledge and experiences of the Holocaust.

The novel itself begins with Katarzyna and Elzbieta, sisters whose names change twice for identity protection reasons, as the central characters on a journey to survive the Holocaust. Undercover as Polish peasants, they make it into the labor-force of Germany attempting to hide their Jewish race through the war. Fink gives Katarzyna a unique narrating role to guide the reader through the story. By shifting between first and third person, Fink exaggerates the theme of self alienation in Katarzyna's life, focusing on the relationship between the person she is and the person she must become to survive. Katarzyna, a girl of intuition and strength, has an optimistic, superstitious side of her personality, providing a flickering hope of survival throughout the dark journey. She has an incredible instinct for acting in unexpected situations and a sense of chance that follows the girls throughout their risky quest.

In one section, the girls encounter two informers who blackmail them by taking their papers and refusing to return them without being paid. "Wouldn't it be better to deal with this like civilized human beings," one of the informers smarts off. Katarzyna, with her keen, on-the-spot instinct, replies, catching the man off guard, "What do you mean, `human'?" This supports the theme of non-Jews in charge using their power for their own benefit. Thus, this quotation parallels the theme of the novel in that the Jews are being treated as anything but humans. This incident reveals the horror of the Holocaust and other cases where those in power use their position to their own advantage selfishly.

Even though this story is set over half a century ago, you see that it's possible for the same thing to happen today, in any place where racial prejudice gains power. In a fair world these Jewish girls wouldn't have had to face the immense struggles of their story. Fink strongly stresses the humanity of the girls and their right to life just as any other person deserves to live, whether German, Pole, or American. I think that this novel is relevant to our power-hungry culture and great for illustrating the inhumanness that can be caused by obedience to a discriminating authority. I would suggest it for high school students as well as adults who are currently in the thick of making decisions concerning the keeping or giving up of their constitutional rights. It opened my eyes to see what might happen if our government gains enough control to powerfully, for its own benefit, suppress another race. It was also comparable to the other non-fiction Holocaust works I have read, probably due to Fink's knowledge and experience of the time period.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Journey, A Review by Cayce Gearrin 11 Dec 2006
By Geri A. Gearrin - Published on Amazon.com
In the novel "The Journey" the author; Ida fink, Holocaust survivor and recipient of the Anne Frank Prize 1985, tells a story of two girls' journey through Nazi Germany in an attempt to avoid detection by the Gestapo. Katarzyna, the novel's protagonist, is our guide on the girls' journey. Fink depicts Katarzyna as the heroine of the novel and uses her character to show the reader the courage and strength one had to possess to endure an atrocity such as the Holocaust.

The novel begins when the girls' father, a local doctor, sends them away from an imminent death in their small Polish town. The girls illegally have new papers forged, establishing that they are polish peasants from the country side. Every truth of their lives must remain a secret and their existence itself becomes one big lie. The two sisters, Katarzyna and Elzbieta, set out to voluntarily work in Germany. Throughout the novel the girls attempt to conceal their identities but always fail and once again change names and locations.

In their first job the girls' find themselves located in a concentration camp. For a short while, the girls' true identity remains undiscovered; however, their secret is released and the two sisters, along with three other exposed Jews, are subjected to ridicule by their peers. Katarzyna, always trying to find good in every bad situation, hopes that "our common fate will unite us." But even the other Jewish girls within the camp have to look out for their own well being, even if it meant hanging fellow Jews out to dry. Luckily, the girls are able to make their first escape and roam the Polish country-side looking for the next arbietsamt to relocate them to another job.

Throughout the novel Katarzyna carries with her a good luck charm, the broken horseshoe she finds in the beginning of the novel. Though this symbol is usually negative and an omen of bad luck, Katarzyna turns it into a sign of good fortune and prosperity. She carries it to remind her that there is hope for her to survive, that there can always be hope. She makes her own luck and keeps a positive outlook on each situation she faces. It is through her courage and hope that she and her sister survived the Holocaust at all.

"The Journey" is a compelling story of two sisters' Holocaust experience. Fink uses descriptive details not only to give the reader a visual but she uses her words in a way so that you, the reader can experience the landscape and the people through the eyes of a Jew trying to out run death. Her story is one of loss, deceit, and secrets; and it is definitely a story worth reading.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Howard- student review 12 Dec 2006
By J. Howard - Published on Amazon.com
The Journey (1992), written by Ida Fink, is a historical novel depicting two Jewish sisters attempting to escape from Poland into Germany to avoid Nazi persecution during the 1940's. Translated from Yiddish by Joanna Weschler and Francine Prose, the story conveys the truth about the Holocaust through the eyes of eldest sister, Katarzyna. Ida Fink's ultimate theme throughout the novel is the immense courage and strength one must possess in order to create her own destiny instead of surrendering to life's given obstacles.

Ida Fink, a Holocaust survivor, was born in Zbaraz (currently in the Ukraine) into a Jewish family in 1920. Similar to the sisters, Fink escaped from Poland in 1942 into Germany disguised as a Polish farm worker. It is through her first-hand experience that Fink writes, adding an autobiographical flair to her novel. Now, she lives in Israel where she writes, in Polish, solely about the Holocaust. Fink has also written two other short fiction books: A Scrap of Time (1987) and Traces (1996).

In this particular novel, the story closely follows two young Jewish sisters attempting to survive by hiding in Germany during the 1940's. In the beginning, it seemed fairly simple; these two Jewish girls would receive new identification as Polish volunteer workers traveling to Germany. It turns out that this was the easiest step, and it only became more complicated with each passing day. As the girls are forced to continuously change their identities in order to survive, Fink chooses to emphasize Katarzyna's uneasy feelings towards acting unlike herself by purposefully switching the narration between first and third person. Even if she is not acting like herself, Katarzyna takes on every new complication with courage, optimism, and a little luck from her broken horseshoe.

With each new obstacle, Katarzyna faces it with the utmost courage and optimism. While stationed in the transit camp, the sisters are under high suspicion of the Gestapo. By staging a sudden outburst that a typical Polish peasant would under the circumstances, Katarzyna is practically forced to leave the room. She "didn't know this litany of curses, together with [her] throwing the documents down on the table before anyone even asked for them, that all of this would help [her] more than the best identity card and rubber stamps." Obviously, this incident gives light into the real horrors that could happen at any moment to the Jews. Through this specific situation, Katarzyna's personality is revealed as she uses her brave instincts, like always, and takes complete control of the situation which ultimately enables both her and her sister to leave the Gestapo's office unharmed and to continue on their journey.

As a whole, I feel that this book is immensely successful and effective. In comparison to other Holocaust novels I have read, such as The Sunflower by Simon Wiesenthal and All But My Life by Gerda Klein, this novel gave me a more tangible perspective of this devastating historical event; something the cold hard facts just could not do. I would recommend this book to both those studying the Holocaust and those who are not, for the impact will be unforgotten nevertheless.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A rare p.o.v.: Jews who flee into Germany 23 Sep 2005
By John L Murphy - Published on Amazon.com
Reading Simon Weisenthal's obituary just before Fink's presumably autobiographically based novel, I was struck in both cases (as in Art Speigelman's Maus) how the protagonists had evaded certain doom over and over again, seemingly by chance. When the narrator, whose name changes so often that, by the end of the book, you like her may have forgotten her original identity, mulls over how her prayer was only "please not yet" in crisis and nothing more, you realize how much of a role fate had in who survived and who did not.

The relentlessness of the extermination, here not in the camps but in everyday life for those who manage to disguise, if for a time, their Jewishness, reveals itself in the constant danger of exposure, not only by the Germans but by the Poles who might stumble upon the truth about the narrator and her accomplices from back home. Even as they escape the ghetto for Germany as slave laborers, they cannot fully trust their own fellow nationals. Accents, mundane details, imagined native cities and schools, catechisms, hymns and Christmas celebrations, relatives of potential informers who knew them in their homeland: all of these factors never ease but briefly, no matter how far they seem from their origins, posing as one invented character after another.

This strain of brazenly acting--even before the Gestapo--so often as to (nearly?) obliterate one's true self makes the tension of this novel interiorized as well as represented in the often sparely but grippingly related events. I had heard an excerpt from this novel read on NPR, knowing nothing of the author, back on publication in 1992, and have never forgotten it. A small shortcoming is the telescoping of events at the close, and an afterward that seems too awkwardly expressed. But the force of this clearly told, unsentimentalized, and very immediate novel makes for a fresh take on events from a less memorialized perspective: of those who went underground within the Reich to survive. Ida Fink has written two other collections of sketches and stories based on real events, and deserves your attention for her careful craft.
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