September Light

Horst Bienek, Author, Ralph R. Read, Translator Atheneum Books $17.95 (273p) ISBN 978-0-689-11848-7
Set in the disputed territory of Upper Silesia, where one of the pivotal events in history has just begun to unfold, this impressive panoramic second novel of a tetrology (which won several literary prizes in Germany) begins a fews days after the Nazis have launched their assault on Poland. Life goes on pretty much as usual. A local photographer and paterfamilias has just died, and relatives and friends are assembling to bury him. The narrative focuses sharply, with camera-lens realism, first on one family and then another. Layer by layer their lives are laid barethe ""little people,'' Germans unheedingly preoccupied with their routines, though not above appropriating Jewish property. Standing apart are a Jewish poet, civilized, humane, and his sensitive, devoted, Aryan wife. The locale of the novel, Gleiwitz, is Bienek's home town, and it shows to high advantagein a sense of intimacy, a fidelity to the mundane events of daily life. But there is a difference: it is September 1939 and the gates of hell have been flung open. (January 21)
Reviewed on: 12/01/1986
Release date: 12/01/1986
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