Book Review: ‘The Pianist’ by Władysław Szpilman

777033It took me a long time to settle into this book. It is heavy with narrative (which, I suppose, is one of the characteristics of a memoir), and I always find that hard going. Also, the writing seemed very dispassionate, which struck me as odd given the emotive subject matter, but as I got into the book I began to realise that the author was probably in a state of shock when he wrote it. The most harrowing events are exposed for what they are because they are not over-dramatised or embellished with clever prose.

At the end of the book, having read Szpilman’s own account of life in Warsaw between 1939 and 1945, and the diary entries of the German officer who came to his aid, I was left wondering how the events of WWII had been allowed to happen. It seems preposterous and utterly, utterly wrong, yet I know similar atrocities are still happening in the world today. The epilogue, written by one of Szpilman’s friends, goes some way to explaining events, but I find myself with this quote echoing in my mind: All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

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