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The Pianist: The Extraordinary Story of One Man's Survival in Warsaw, 1939-45 [Hardcover]

Wladyslaw Szpilman
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
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Book Description

4 July 2002

'You can learn more about human nature from this brief account of the survival of one man throughout the war years in the devastated city of Warsaw than from several volumes of the average encyclopaedia' Independent on Sunday

'We are drawn in to share his surprise and then disbelief at the horrifying progress of events, all conveyed with an understated intimacy and dailiness that render them painfully close¿riveting' Observer

'The images drawn are unusually sharp and clear¿but its moral tone is even more striking: Szpilman refuses to make a hero or a demon out of anyone' Literary Review


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: W&N; New edition edition (4 July 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297829726
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297829720
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 14.2 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 576,193 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Amazon Review

The last live broadcast on Polish Radio, on September 23, 1939, was Chopin's Nocturne in C# Minor, played by a young pianist named Wladyslaw Szpilman, until his playing was interrupted by German shelling. It was the same piece and the same pianist, when broadcasting resumed six years later. The Pianist is Szpilman's account of the years inbetween, of the death and cruelty inflicted on the Jews of Warsaw and on Warsaw itself, related with a dispassionate restraint borne of shock. Szpilman, now 88, has not looked at his description since he wrote it in 1946 (the same time as Primo Levi's If This Is A Man?; it is too personally painful. The rest of us have no such excuse.

Szpilman's family were deported to Treblinka, where they were exterminated; he survived only because a music-loving policeman recognised him. This was only the first in a series of fatefully lucky escapes that littered his life as he hid among the rubble and corpses of the Warsaw Ghetto, growing thinner and hungrier, yet condemned to live. Ironically it was a German officer, Wilm Hosenfeld, who saved Szpilman's life by bringing food and an eiderdown to the derelict ruin where he discovered him. Hosenfeld died seven years later in a Stalingrad labour camp, but portions of his diary, reprinted here, tell of his outraged incomprehension of the madness and evil he witnessed, thereby establishing an effective counterpoint to ground the nightmarish vision of the pianist in a desperate reality. Szpilman originally published his account in Poland in 1946, but it was almost immediately withdrawn by Stalin's Polish minions as it unashamedly described collaborations by Lithuanians, Ukrainians, Poles and Jews with the Nazis. In 1997 it was published in Germany after Szpilman's son found it on his father's bookcase. This admirably robust translation by Anthea Bell is the first in the English language. There were 3,500,000 Jews in Poland before the Nazi occupation; after it there were 240,000. Wladyslaw Szpilman's extraordinary account of his own miraculous survival offers a voice across the years for the faceless millions who lost their lives. --David Vincent --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

OSCARS - The Pianist has won three OSCARS (count 'em!) for BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY, BEST DIRECTOR, BEST LEADING ACTOR... and you can't miss the coverage in the national and regional newspapers, radio and TV...! BAFTAS- You'll remember The Pianist won the BAFTA for BEST FILM beating Gangs of New York, Chicago, The Hours and Lord of the Rings. It also won the BAFTA for BEST DIRECTOR.It has also just won BEST FILM at the inaugural LONDON JEWISH CULTURE CENTREAWARDS FOR CONTRIBUTIONS TO JEWISH CULTURE. It is also number 15 on the US Bestseller lists. Just such a shame that the author never lived to see his story being so widely acclaimed. Many of you will remember the author, Wladlyslaw Szpilman, who came over to promote the book in hardback and who sadly died before the film was realised. With such a brilliant Director and the amazing true story of how Wladyslaw survived because of his love of music, the film is attracting a huge amount of attention and the reissued paperback is also receiving good reviews. As THE MAIL ON SUNDAY says:"This edition of the book has been released to coincide with a new Hollywood film, but I strongly recommend reading it first." "One of the most human of stories" JEWISH CHRONICLE "Szpilman pays testament to the strange magic of music, without which he would have dies alongside his family." SUNDAY HERALD "a remarkable book... no-holds-barred... fascinating." SUNDAY TELEGRAPH --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
4.9 out of 5 stars
This item has not been released yet and is not eligible to be reviewed. Reviews shown are from other formats of this item.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
54 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 27 Feb 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This account of life in the Warsaw ghetto allows the reader to view the 're-settlement' of Jews during WW2 from a completely different perspective than the one usually portrayed in literature of the period, penned by holocaust survivors.
This is simply because it is not a recollection of concentration camp life, but that of a young man who managed to escape the net constantly threatening to close in around him.
The tale is told from a somewhat detached point of view, which indeed makes it all the more compelling in my mind. The matter-of-fact manner in which the author embraces his horrific experiences, brings his shattering ordeal home to the reader in horrifyingly blunt detail.
This is the type of subject that should never be ignored or brushed over; the heroism of the people who lived through the Nazi regime should always be addressed as a statement to mankind; and 'The Pianist' in its own way, indeed makes such a statement.
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's Easy to Forget 4 Jun 2003
Format:Paperback
The Pianist is a deeply moving tale of repression and survival which highlights the plight of Jews in Warsaw over the course of the second world war and particularly the journey of one man, Wladyslaw Szpilman, whose courage and determination to survive should inspire awe in every reader.
It is always incredibly humbling to read accounts of the atrocities during the war and the Pianist is no exception. I feel torn when writing about this book as it is hard to write positively about such a awful period of time, but the narrative is heart breakingly effective and although one experiences great relief when the war is over, the plight of millions of Jews less fortunate than our Pianist is brought back into the picture by the moving excerpts from the diary of Wilm Hosenfeld.
It is a must-read in order to fully understand what went on and to appreciate what so many gave.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly Wonderful 22 Dec 2003
Format:Paperback
The Pianist, the true story of Polish-Jew Wladyslaw Szpilman, that inspired the Academy-Award winning movie with Adrien Brody, is truly wonderful.
The book is written in a very simplistic form which parallels the simplicity in which Szpilman's life is barbarically ruined by the invasion of the Nazis. His story is told in a style free of hatred or bitterness that makes you, as a reader, respect him, especially considering the awful, tragic and harrowing events that plague him throughout the text.
The Pianist is an unforgettable account of one man's struggle under Nazi oppression. One of the messages that Szpilman communicates in the book is that it is not where we come from, for example Poland, or what religion we are, for example Jewish, or even our politics, that defines us; it is what we do with our lives. Szpilman is taken by the Nazis and is defined as a Polish Jew; nothing else, but by the end of the novel the reader understands him as being a pianist, simply a pianist. We learn this lesson also in the Nazi Captain, Wilm Hosenfeld. He saves Szpilman, proving that though he is a Nazi, the oppressor of Szpilman's world, he has the power to be good.
When you reach the end of the book you will be shocked, horrified and outraged at what Szpilman suffered and endured. But the most outrageous part, for a modern reader, is that it is all true, and that is what makes The Pianist a must-read. People must never forget the tragedy we are all, somehow, capable of commiting.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Unforgettable Story of Survival 7 Mar 2000
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
The Pianist is a moving eye-witness account of one man's survival in Nazi-occupied Warsaw. Wladyslaw Szpilman--a Jew and famed pianist for Polish Radio--relates his memories of the unutterable and unrelenting horrors of the Holocaust in Warsaw--the random executions, starving children, mass deportations--with a sober, almost uncanny detachment. And though the machinery of extermination is all around him, he somehow evades his pursuers through friends willing to risk their lives to hide him. His father, mother, two sisters and a brother are all deported and sent to their deaths in concentration camp. And, when it appears, near war's end, that he is at the end of luck, trying to still keep himself concealed in a part of Warsaw that his been systematically destroyed by the Germans, he finds an unexpected saviour: Wilm Hosenfeld, a German Army captain who, rather than kill Szpilman, provides him with a hiding place and necessities to kept him alive until the Soviet Army finally liberates the city. This slim volume written with in a kind of terse, no-nonsense style that will keep the reader riveted to each episode in Szpilman's incredible Odyssey, is probably one of the best books I have read in the area of Holocaust literature.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two hundred and twenty two pages of adrenalin! 26 Sep 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This book tells the story of Wladyslaw Szpilman's incredible
and unlikely survival through the war years in occupied Warsaw.
Szpilman describes the horror of the Warsaw ghetto and tells of the sickening
brutality administered by the Gestapo and Jewish Secret Police
towards the Jews.
He narrates with a chilling frankness and leaves the reader feeling
both shocked and relieved that they are not in his situation.
The book reaches the pinnacle of sadnesss when Szpilman watches his
own family being taken in cattle trucks to the death camp in Treblinka.
Somehow though, he finds the will to carry on despite the odds being
stacked heavily against him. A house fire, accute malnutrition and
near capture are all obstacles in Szpilman's plight.
Eventually he is found by an German enemy soldier who saves him
from the brink of starvation and certain death...
Of all the second world war accounts I have read this has got to
be one of my favourites.
A captivating read - full of the stuff of escape and near misses
Great !
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Vg
Published 1 hour ago by davidsmith
5.0 out of 5 stars no words can describe
this is not a book for entertainment, it's reality at it's harshest, but if you don't care about disney movies and meaningless entertainment, and you like to learn something... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Skinchanger2
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for anyone with a conscience
raw and uninhibited, a remarkable story of humanity, courage and brutality. a true account of the horrors that should never be forgotten
Published 2 months ago by daisy
5.0 out of 5 stars The Pianist
This arrived later than the estimated date but when it did I could not put it down. Saw the film & it was faithful to the book by this extraordinary man. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Garfield
5.0 out of 5 stars What a Story!!
Being 85 years old I of course remember the awful stories that we heard during the period 1939_ 1945 well. I knew several Jewish people in London and got on well with them. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Gordon Dawson
4.0 out of 5 stars the pianist
this is a very thoughtful book, and it makes you think, how other people suffered, it was not so long ago, as the crow flys
Published 3 months ago by Anita W.
4.0 out of 5 stars Makes you understand the polish mentality.... a bit.
I have a Polish girlfriend and I wanted to read something that made me understand the culture a bit better. Read more
Published 3 months ago by P Grainger
5.0 out of 5 stars Important book
I found this quite uncomfortable to read in places, but it was fascinating and I couldn't put it down. It's a really important book that should be widely read.
Published 4 months ago by Buddly
5.0 out of 5 stars Astonishing read.
Loved the film and so read the book. Not disappointing. I may add it to my favourite reads. A true tale of survival.
Published 5 months ago by Jonathan Nicholas - Author
5.0 out of 5 stars Detailed and exceptional story.
Have seen the film, I expected the story to be something similar of this book,it was but with extra events not shown in the film version of this story. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Lara G
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