cover image The Subtenant / To Outwit God

The Subtenant / To Outwit God

Hanna Krall. Northwestern University Press, $21.95 (247pp) ISBN 978-0-8101-1075-5

This fine volume brings together two pieces by Polish journalist Krall. The first, never before available in English, is an eerie, semi-autobiographical novel detailing the narrator's relationship over nearly four decades with the subtenant, the Jewish girl who is hidden from the Nazi occupiers by the narrator's family. This family (which bears the same name as that of the author, though in reality Krall herself was the hidden child) is also Jewish in origin but chose Polishness long ago. In Krall's skilled hands, the tale becomes a disconcerting study of ethnic identity and compromise, of good and evil. She draws contrasts through sharp oppositions-Polishness vs. Jewishness and brightness vs. darkness. The postwar resurgence of anti-Semitism is thus exposed in a sly narrative. The second piece, an interview with the last surviving leader of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, Marek Edelman, complements the novel. It deals almost as much with Edelman's life as a cardiologist as with the war. Although both works are sensitively translated, the format of the second makes it sometimes difficult to know who is saying what. Even so, this volume is a powerful indictment of the consequences of hatred. (Oct.)