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The Pianist: The Extraordinary Story of One Man's Survival in Warsaw, 1939-45 (Read a Great Movie) Paperback – 24 Mar 2005

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Orion; New edition edition (24 Mar. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0752864297
  • ISBN-13: 978-0752864297
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 1.6 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,429,246 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

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 Szpilman originally published his account in Poland in 1946, but it was almost immediately withdrawn by Stalin's Polish minions as it unashamedly described collaborations by Lithuanians, Ukrainians, Poles and Jews with the Nazis.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

"Stunning . . . Filled with unforgettable incidents, images, and people."--" The Wall Street Journal""Remarkable . . . a document of lasting historical and human value."--"The Los Angeles Times""Historically indispensible."--"Washington Post Book World"""The Pianist" is a great book."--"The Boston Globe""Even by the standards set be Holocaust memoirs, this book is a stunner."--"Seattle Weekly""A stunning tribute to what one human being can endure, "The Pianist" is even more--a testimony to the redemptive power of fellow feeling."--"The Plain Dealer""""Distinguished by [Szpilman's] dazzling clarity . . . Remarkably lucid."--"Publishers Weekly" (starred review)"A striking Holocaust memoir that conveys with exceptional immediacy and cool reportage the author's desperate fight for survival."--"Kirkus Reviews"""The Pianist" is a book so fresh and vivid, so heartbreaking, and so simply and beautifully written, that it manages to tell us the story of horrendous events as if for the first time . . . an altogether unforgettable book. "--"The Daily Telegraph ""Wladyslaw Szpilman's memoir of life in Nazi-occupied Warsaw and the Jewish ghetto has a singular vividness. All is conveyed with an understated intimacy and dailiness that render them painfully close."--"The Observer ""It is all told with a simple clarity that lodges the story in one's stomach through a mixture of disgust, terror, despair, rage, and guilt that grips the reader almost gently. "--"The Spectator""Illuminates vividly the horror that overcame the Polish people. Szpilman's account has an immediacy, vivid and anguished."--"The Sunday Telegraph" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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55 of 56 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 27 Feb. 2003
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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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By David Firth on 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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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By "thomashoneyman" on 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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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 7 Mar. 2000
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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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By David I. Howells on 2 Jun. 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As quite a few reviewers did, I read this book after watching the film. I found the book, as I do most holocaust based books, to be horrific, sad and terribly tragic. Wladyslaw Szpilman is a pianist working for a Polish radio station when Poland falls to the German invaders in 1939. The subsequent segregation and systematic annihilation of the Warsaw Jews is then described with Szpilman and his family being the obvious fulcrum of the story.

Szpilman describes in depth the formation of the Jewish Ghetto, the Ghetto uprising, the Warsaw uprising, the `relocation' of his family to the gas chambers, the beatings, shootings and the random murder of so many of his race. A story of pure savagery that even after so many books, films and documentaries still shocks the reader to the core.

The main theme of this book however concerns the miraculous survival of the author. He is picked out from the `relocation' queue by an old friend who is now a Jewish Ghetto policeman and then embarks on a hide and seek escapade through various safe houses in Warsaw. Living with an instant death sentence if discovered, Szpilman is hidden at these various locations for weeks at a time, always alone and often without food. Eventually in the courageous Warsaw uprising the author is forced to take refuge in an abandoned building which catches fire, he is then discovered by the Germans and shot at but escapes. In what is a virtually a now abandoned Warsaw he takes refuge in other abandoned buildings and is eventually caught in one foraging for food by a German Captain namely Wilm Hosenfeld. Expecting the worse Szpilman finds the opposite and his life is saved by this kind and honourable German officer. Hosenfeld befriends Szpilman, hides him, feeds him and provides him warm clothing.
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