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The Pianist: The Extraordinary Story of One Man's Survival in Warsaw, 1939-45 Paperback – 1 Mar 2000

4.8 out of 5 stars 121 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: W&N; New Ed edition (1 Mar. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753808609
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753808603
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.7 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars 121 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 591,545 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 sharp 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 in between, 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 Szpilman originally published his account in Poland in 1946, but it was almost immediately withdrawn by Stalin's Polish minions as it unashamedly described collaborations by Lithuanians, Ukrainians, Poles and Jews with the Nazis.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

Review

Vivid and anguished . . . compulsive reading (Richard Overy Sunday Telegraph)

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 (Gerald Jacobs 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 (Lisa Appignanesi Observer)

This memoir of a Jewish pianist who survived the war in Warsaw is one of the most powerful accounts ever written (Sunday Tribune)

A compelling, harrowing masterpiece (Independent)

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 . . . His account is hair-raising, beyond anything Hollywood could invent . . . Everything that has been most horrific in life in 20th-century Europe is encompassed in this exquisite memoir (Daily Telegraph)

What really stays with the reader is the chilling, almost naive immediacy with which the story is told . . . The Pianist is an icy, nerveless but remarkably readable memoir that takes us as close as we are ever likely to travel to the day-to-day reality of living through terror (Sunday Times)

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