In his compelling and ambitious novel, The Book Thief, the young Australian author, Markus Zusak, breaks at lot of traditional "writing rules" and gets away with it big time. The narrator is Death himself and the time and place is Nazi Germany during the Second World War. The main character of the story is nine-year old Liesel Meminger, who is taken to live with foster parents in a small village. Besides trying to survive and mourning the loss of family and friends, Liesel has another problem--an overwhelming urge and desire to steal books. She steals her first book even before she knows how to read and continues to steal books in the face of great danger. What I found so fascinating about the book is the author's ability to present deeply disturbing, gloomy, tragic events with dark but comforting humor. You literally "cry with one eye and laugh with the other." The book is both a favorite with young as well as older adults.
A very different story about a "book thief" I read in the weekly Swiss newspaper I get to keep in touch with events in my second home country. A world-famous neurologist and professor at the University Hospital in Lausanne, Switzerland, was fired from his job and arrested for misappropriating approx. 5 million dollars to support his addiction to--BOOKS! Yep, not drugs or fancy cars or villas, but books. He collected books like a maniac. Fortunately (from my point of view), he wasn't sent to jail. He was contrite and paid back all the money, donated a large part of his collection to the university library and contributed a large amount to charitable organizations. Although the judge felt, he deserved time in the slammer, he gave him a very mild sentence. I bet the judge loved books!
The moral behind these stories: Books are valuable. So keep on writing, authors. If you're lucky enough, someone will even risk jail to read your stuff!
Thursday, March 4, 2010
The Book Thief
Christa Polkinhorn, originally from Switzerland, lives and works as writer and translator in the Los Angeles area, California. She divides her time between the United States and Switzerland and has strong ties to both countries. She is the author of five novels and a collection of poems. Her travels and her interest in foreign cultures inform her work and her novels take place in several countries. Aside from writing and traveling, she is an avid reader and a lover of the arts, dark chocolate, and red wine.