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Searching for Schindler
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Had I read SEARCHING FOR SCHINDLER before making the film, I may have made it an hour longer. I owe you so much. The world owes you more. (Steven Spielberg)
Keneally is incapable of writing a dull book. This memoir, listed as his 38th publication, is no exception (Andrew Riemer, Sydney Morning Herald)
a fascinating absorbing book, replete with anecdote and a quality of writing that continues to mark Keneally out as one of our finest living authors ( Herald ) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
"Had I read Searching for Schindler before making the film, I may have made it an hour longer. I owe you so much. The world owes you more." (Steven Spielberg)
"Keneally is incapable of writing a dull book. This memoir, listed as his 38th publication, is no exception." (Sydney Morning Herald)
"SEARCHING FOR SCHINDLER is the story of author Thomas Keneally's search for the many Holocaust survivors he needed to interview while writing SCHINDLER'S ARK, the basis for the award-winning movie SCHINDLER'S LIST. On its face, the book sounds self-serving, but the listener quickly discovers that it’s a journey of self-exploration and inspiration. In many ways this is the story of how Schindler transformed Keneally. Narrator Humphrey Bower captures the joy, curiosity, and passion that overwhelmed Keneally as he discovered Oskar Schindler and the many people on his "list". This is a story about personalities, and Bower succeeds by imbuing each with a life. It all began innocuously when Keneally met Leopold Pfefferberg Page and learned how one man changed so many others' lives, and unwittingly changed his own." (AudioFile Magazine)
"This is Thomas Keneally's account of writing his novel Schindler's Ark and then seeing it turned into Spielberg's film Schindler's List. The central character is "Poldek" Pfefferberg, into whose Beverly Hills shop Keneally wandered in 1980 in search of a briefcase. Discovering he was an author, Poldek told him he had this "wonderful story" that he had to tell the world. This was the tale of Oskar Schindler, who saved hundreds of Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland. Keneally portrays the improbably extravagant Poldek with affectionate grace and closes the book with a lament for his death in 2001. Keneally is appealingly forthright about the controversies that surrounded both book and film: his financial anxieties are alleviated, he's awed to be in Hollywood, he's not convinced that film is as good as words. But he never forgets that all this is nothing to the suffering of the people featured in both film and book. That ambivalence is entirely appropriate to a story of an "improbable saviour" with ambiguous motives, told by one of those he saved." (The Guardian) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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If this perhaps makes it seem a little dry, it's not. It is a highly personal book - this was often not an easy process for Keneally or his family - whose two 'heroes' are Pfefferberg, a truly remarkable man, and I think Keneally himself, though he would probably squirm in denial at that conclusion. There are interesting facts and anecdotes throughout, and many, many remarkable characters emerge, most of them other survivors. The process of getting the film made is absorbing - Keneally meeting Spielberg, the rights eventually being bought, time elasping and Spielberg working on other films, Keneally being contracted to write a screenplay, a new writer and then another being found, eventually the actual making of the film onset, meeting the actors, the first screening, the adulation - not unmixed with bitter and vociferous criticism - that it received. It's not a long book, but it covers a great deal of ground in a most involving way, and towards the end it becomes very moving. I enjoyed it very much, and I recommend it highly.
I would simply add that any who are moved and drawn in by the Schindler story, as well as seeing Spielberg's film should seek out Jon Blair's TV documentary, voiced by Dirk Bogarde and available sadly at present only in VHS form, which Keneally mentions with approval and which includes chilling interview film of Majola, Amon Goeth's mistress, close to death, whom Keneally and Pfefferbeg failed to find when they visited Vienna. Her ambivalent testimony, whispered in the pained rasp of a terminal emphysemia sufferer, is well worth hearing, and there are many, many excellent and moving interviews with DEF and Brinnlitz survivors as well. I think, in its different way, it is just as good as Spielberg's film.
I listened to the audiobook and thoroughly enjoyed the brilliant narration - the reader does many of the accents of the characters from different nationalities. I listened to it on holiday and found it hard to put down - often wandering around the cottage with my iPod - stopping and replaying bits for my wife to listen to. The 9 hours certainly didn't seem like it.
The story of Schindler itself is fascinating, but Keneally lost this listeners interest for a while when he digressed into his own life as an English Professor in the gap between the book coming out and the film being made. In some ways the book seems to forget if it is the story of the search for Schindler, or the story of Thomas Keneally.
But in the overall context of such a great and fascinating story, this is a minor gripe (although it costs him a star)
I would almost recommend the audio version (bar the price) above the written version for the narrator's ability.
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My son is a big Thomas Keneally fan ever since he read "Schindler's Ark" years ago.Read more