1001 Group Read: November, 2011: Schindler's Ark (aka. Schindler's List)

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1001 Group Read: November, 2011: Schindler's Ark (aka. Schindler's List)

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1george1295
Nov 1, 2011, 11:11am

Yipes!! It's November already! Where has this year gone? Well, it's never too late for a good book. The group read chose Schindler's List for this month's read. I have my copy and I am enjoying it. I look forward to your thoughts about this work by Thomas Keneally.

2billiejean
Nov 1, 2011, 5:56pm

I got my copy back from my daughter, so I am ready to start this one. Thanks for setting up the thread!

3annamorphic
Nov 1, 2011, 6:46pm

Forgot we were reading this so I just ordered my copy; will begin a bit after the rest of you...

4arukiyomi
Nov 2, 2011, 3:40am

for me this is one book that was waaaaaay behind the film. Spielberg made a good novel great IMHO.

5nadyaduck
Nov 2, 2011, 10:40am

I'm over halfway through as I started early to make sure I have time to read my bookclub read. I am really enjoying it, if enjoy is the right word. It's probably better to say it has gripped me. I found the first hundred or so pages hardgoing as the writing style couldn't seem to decide if it was a novel or a work of non-fiction, but it either sorted itself out or just became easier to digest. I am finding it so interesting. There's lots of facts and things that couldn't have been included in the film, like people's pasts or the complex reasons why no one was questioning the whole thing.

6Nickelini
Nov 2, 2011, 12:15pm

This one isn't on my radar, but I'm wondering how the ending compares to the film. My husband and I were extremely disappointed in the end of the film--we found the tone very different from the rest of the film. I guess that's why I've never had much interest in this book. But perhaps if I know they're different, I will track down a copy.

7annamorphic
Nov 2, 2011, 2:41pm

I saw this movie a long time ago, in Haarlem (The Netherlands) with my tall, blonde, Dutch then-boyfriend. At the coffee break (a custom at most Dutch cinemas) I realized that people were looking at me, and then avoiding my eye. And I realized for the first time (after having lived in Holland for 3+ years), that people felt guilty there. Guilty about what happened to the Jews. Guilty because there I was, a clearly non-Dutch-looking person who might be Jewish and wasn't that awkward? Haarlem is a very homogenous place. There was nobody else at the theatre who was other than obviously Dutch.

I am in fact half-Jewish but this was the only time in my life when I felt keenly that this meant something immediate, to other people, about me. It was a very uncomfortable experience, but a very appropriate one.

8Nickelini
Editado: Nov 2, 2011, 2:51pm

#7 - Interesting! That's a very telling story. (BTW -- Haarlem is my favourite Dutch town. I would fit in well there, as my ancestry is Dutch and I am naturally blond)

9chrissybob
Nov 2, 2011, 3:57pm

#5 I loved that this wasn't sure whether to be a novel or a biography - I found it easier to read than a work of non-fiction without ever losing sight of the fact that everything was real. I think any more fictionalised and this would have lost some of it's impact - for me the balance was just right.

I was totally hooked by this book - although it was uncomfortable and Spielberg for me certainly did it justice with the novel. I had always assumed that the red coated little girl was a bit of hollywood spin - apparantly not and that really stunned me.

10arukiyomi
Nov 2, 2011, 6:04pm

well, as you've let that cat out of the bag chrissybob:

One thing that I didn’t realise when watching the film though: praise is often showered on Spielberg for the use of a colour at just one point. A small girl in red is seen wandering aimlessly through the crushed ghetto of Cracow. This is entirely Keneally’s creation and he should get the credit for inspiring Spielberg.

is from my review. http://johnandsheena.co.uk/books/?p=1257 for the rest of it.

11kiwiflowa
Nov 3, 2011, 1:58am

I read Schindler's Ark when I was a teen.. I'm not sure how much I remember is actually the book or the movie Schindler's List. We had to watch the movie every year at high school (5 years) so I remember the movie really well. I can't bring myself to read the book again. Over the years I've become more sensitive to the horror of the holocaust than I was as a teen. To the point now where I refuse to watch any new movies as The Pianist made me literally sick and I'm very careful about the books I read.

12arukiyomi
Nov 3, 2011, 3:26am

Not to be confused with The Piano Teacher which is also on the list and also prone to make you sick but for very different reasons.

13nadyaduck
Nov 3, 2011, 5:00am

#9 - Yes I am loving the balance of the non-fiction and novelisation now, it was just the first 100 pages or so I was finding it peculiar. Now I don't think it should be any other way, it is so dry and that is perfect.

14Deern
Nov 3, 2011, 10:22am

I had not planned to join this group read, but somehow your comments drew me to the book, so I just loaded it onto my Kindle and read the first pages. You're right, it is written in a strange, but gripping style.

15chrissybob
Nov 3, 2011, 2:10pm

Sorry for the Spoiler without an alert - I got carried away :(

16nadyaduck
Nov 7, 2011, 6:20am

Just finished this. I'm so glad I read it, thanks for the motivation! It really was a magnificent read in my opinion.

17Deern
Nov 8, 2011, 4:50am

I finished it as well. It is a good book, with a strange and captivating style. And I learned some new facts, like I had never heard about 'Madagascar' before.

The ending (Schindler's later life in Frankfurt) made me sad. I read some books about post-war Germany this year and I had never realized before what a tabu issue the Holocaust has been until the early 70s and how much antisemitism had remained in the people. I was born in 1971, and must have been part of the first generation where the Holocaust was really discussed at school and where the national guilt was openly acknowledged.

I'll try and get the movie from the library this weekend, it has been a while since I last watched it. But I'd say it was a very good adaptation. Spielberg had to condense the plot a bit, leaving out some characters (or combining 2 or more character into one).

18annamorphic
Nov 14, 2011, 4:06pm

I wonder if we aren't having more discussion on this book because it's too close to non-fiction? I am about 1/3 through and find it hard to read (even though, literarily, it is an easy read and well-written) and even harder to imagine discussing. That is because the subject matter is so awful and TRUE. Where do we draw the line in discussing it as a work of fiction? We can hardly ask, why does the author tell this story? What about plot and character development? I mean, things just happened. Like this.
As for the larger view on the Holocaust, I find this book very chilling because it gives more of a sense of the enormity of the slaughter as a beaurocratically-sustained process. Usually you see a small corner of the atrocity from a single point of view. In Schindler, it's so big. This tension between the enormity of the whole episode and the smallness of one good person is the heartbreaking point of the book. The movie felt more upbeat in this sense. So far, in the book, it's just terrible; but perhaps that is because I have gotten older than when I saw the movie, and know even more about the holocaust than I did then.

19chrissybob
Nov 16, 2011, 3:55pm

#18 - I think you are right in that this is a very hard one to discuss - it is all true and therefore more chilling, but leaves very little scope for discussion about character or motives etc.

I found this one of the most emotionally draining books I have ever read - and I would be interested to know what people have chosen to read after. I needed some real chick lit and chose 600 pages of Ceclia Ahern to lighten my mood. I still don't feel ready to tackle anything too emotional - how is everyone else getting on?

20Deern
Editado: Nov 17, 2011, 5:23am

#18/19: I read Sandokan next, a pirate adventure, by Emilio Salgari.

I must say that I found Schindler's Ark easier to read that the other Holocaust books from the list, like If this is a Man or This Way to the Gas. It might also have helped that I had seen the movie several times.

I can't tell you how often I racked my brains to find the motivation behind all that. In the book there turns up the very practical question of how a country that was already spending so much money on a hopeless war, was at the same time able to invest such enormous amounts of both money and effort on the extinction of a complete people.

Maybe the very simple answer is really that antisemitism (an idea I just can't understand but that obviously had a long tradition in Europe at that time) was so deeply rooted in the German leaders that they believed in the rightness of their doings. Otherwise, if there had been "only" material motives, they would have stopped after the dispossessions and ghettoisations, something that had happened before over the centuries. They must have been convinced of the idea of the Aryans being the "Herrenrasse", there is no other explanation. I once saw a documentation that showed that their ideology was almost like a religion, with rituals, really scary. It wasn't just some excuse/ propaganda to get to the power, the top level of Hitler's people really believed in that stuff. Then there were countless greedy people who were ready to look the other way as long as they could get some money out of it (not much has changed here), and then the population, most of them poor and totally occupied with their own worries, having been forced into obedience in the early days, when all political enemies had been sent to concentration camps.

About the book: I liked that Thomas Keneally didn't try to make Oskar Schindler an ueber-hero. He showed him as a man with many faults, though great determination. More than the movie the book showed what an incredibly close call it was. Had the war lasted a little longer, he might not have been able to hold out. I feel ashamed for the treatment he received in Germany in the years after the war.

21annamorphic
Nov 17, 2011, 2:48pm

After about 300 pages, I found that I could not read the rest. It was a tiny thing that finally tipped me over, a mother being hit and almost killed for lying about her adolescent daughter's age, the daughter frozen with horror as her beaten mother crawls from the electric fence. They live to see another day, but I couldn't handle one more scene of swift and terrible cruelty. So I skimmed the rest of the book, and read the last few chapters.

This was not a book I enjoyed, ever. The relentless beaurocratic murder combined with incessant, random acts of sadism just wore me down. It was too nightmarish. I've read other holocaust novels and I've been to numerous museums about the holocaust, in Germany and in the USA, and I've talked to relatives who were survivors. What I couldn't bear in Schindler's Ark was the multiplicity of viewpoints (so that there is always, always, another sudden moment of horrific cruelty just when you've let down your guard) and the prolongation of the brutality over years and years. Schindler's heroism is dwarfed by the enormity of what he was up against. 1,100 names on the list. There were almost 70,000 Jews in Cracow before the Holocaust, and in this book you feel as if you are involved with all of them, not the ones who are saved.

This account is smart and truthful and realistic in the sense that, every story of survival is an anomaly in the Holocaust, and the stories of the dead are the untold volumes. I've always been very aware of that. But for an author to try to repair that balance in some way results in an unbearable text.

I don't know why people say this book is "uplifting." The movie was kind of uplifting, as I recall. The book is upsetting.

22StevenTX
Nov 17, 2011, 3:23pm

I finished it last night. It is, as others have said, really hard to talk about as a novel. The facts of the story overwhelm the telling of it, and as a "non-fiction novel," neither fish nor fowl, it is hard to judge as we would a scholarly work of history or as we would a product of the imagination.

Schindler's heroism has been deliberately understated, but that makes him all the more enigmatic as a character. Why was he, of all people, the one to stand up against the SS machine? I wonder if he asked himself that question.

The stories of sadism and brutality were not new, but brought to a more personal level in some instances than other books. What I did find surprising was the extent of corruption among the German civilian and military authorities.

I wouldn't call the novel uplifting either. That one man could rise above his nature to become surprisingly good does not offset the idea that so many could sink to such evil. I saw the movie, but too many years ago to compare it with the book in this regard.

23Nickelini
Nov 17, 2011, 3:29pm

#21 - Annamorphic - I hear you! Some people won't read books where animals are treated cruelly, and while I don't believe in animal cruelty either, I don't think it compares to the horrors of the Holocaust. I've seen and heard enough and now I avoid Holocaust stories. Also slavery stories.

Reading this thread, I was almost convinced to read the book. But now I think not. Not now, anyway.

24billiejean
Editado: Dez 2, 2011, 1:27am

Well, I only just now finished the book. I did not find it uplifting, but I did find it inspiring. I realize that what he accomplished might be termed small in light of the 6 million killed in the Holocaust. But this one man threw all he had at saving those 1300 people. He went to extreme lengths to save them. And to me 1300 is a big number for one person over such an extended length of time. And it mattered to all of them.

Over the years I have read a lot of books about the Holocaust. It is a tough subject and totally shocking. We had Holocaust survivors come to our school and speak and show films from 7th grade. Now, I have to space out what I read, because it is so upsetting. I read this one because of the group read, and I am really glad that I did. His massive effort inspired me to believe that at least some people will stand up and do the right things even if it is hard.