cover image Chasing the King of Hearts

Chasing the King of Hearts

Hanna Krall, trans. from the Polish by Philip Boehm. Feminist, $15.95 (200p) ISBN 978-1-55861-944-9

Originally published in Poland in 2006, this devastating, fragmentary Holocaust narrative follows a Jewish woman’s tireless drive to rescue her husband from Auschwitz. Izolda and Shayek fall for each other against the backdrop of Nazi-occupied Warsaw, and are barely married before Shayek is detained and sent to the concentration camp. With nothing more than whispers of his location, Izolda borrows money, delivers illegal letters, and sells black-market bacon to ensure her husband’s safety. She travels from Poland to Germany to Vienna, dying her hair to allay suspicion, until she too is apprehended by the Gestapo and sent to work in a factory in Guben. After absconding and posing as a nurse, Izolda is finally able to track down Shayek, but the experiences of war have changed them both so profoundly that their reunion is coldly, heartbreakingly anticlimactic. The novel is interspersed with flash-forwards, photos of Holocaust victims, and passages of Yiddish, all of which work in concert to recreate the confounding, concurrent horrors of the war and genocide. The prose never once seems out of the author’s control, displaying precisely the serious artistry required to elevate and illuminate such harrowing material. (Feb.)