Life with a Star

Jiri Weil, Author, Roslyn Schloss, Translator, R. Klima, Translator
Jiri Weil, Author, Roslyn Schloss, Translator, R. Klima, Translator Farrar Straus Giroux $22.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-374-18737-8
Reviewed on: 06/01/1989
Release date: 06/01/1989
This slim, wartime classic was written in the mid-1940s when the author's experiences during the Holocaust were still fresh; the ``star'' of the title refers of course to the Star of David European Jews under Hitler were forced to wear. It opens as the narrator, a former bank teller named Josef Roubicek, is waiting to be called up for deportation to Terezin, the notorious concentration camp in eastern Czechoslovakia. Instead, he is given a ``classification four''--unsuited to hard labor--and is assigned by the authorities to sweep leaves in a Prague cemetery. Here, Roubicek begins a surreal existence as the author contrasts the peacefulness of the cemetery with the increasing persecution of the Jews still left in the city. A weak, vacillating character at the start of the narrative, Roubicek matures. Unlike many friends who contemplate suicide, he decides to embrace hope--and life--and with the help of a resistance fighter goes underground. Weil (1900-1959) builds his drama through a series of telling vignettes; in one pathetic scene a doll cries ``Mama'' as toys of Jewish children are carted off to a warehouse. Powerful, yet small in scope, this is as much an indictment of materialism--and greed--as it is a chilling portrait of Nazi-occupied Prague. In the preface, Roth explains how he was made aware of this ``outstanding'' book. He was in strumental in its publication here. (June)
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