Friday, August 24, 2007
How long has it already been
since last the sun was seen by me
behind the Petrinhill, dropping out of sight?
I kissed Prague with a teary glance when she
wrapped herself in the shadows of the night.
How long since in Vltava I could hear
the pleasant murmur of the weir?
Long ago the buzz of Wenceslas Square
was forgotten. When did is disappear?
How are those hidden corners of my city
in the shadow of the slaughterhouse? I fear
they are not sad, they don't miss me
as I miss them. It's been a year.
For a year I've been stuck in an ugly hole;
instead of your beauties, I've a few streets alone.
Like a wild animal trapped in a cage
I remember you, my Prague, a fairy tale of stone.
Petr Ginz 1928-1944
The Diary of Petr Ginz edited by Chava Pressburger, introduction by Jonathan Safran Foer, translated by Elena Lappin
Petr Ginz was born in Prague, in 1928, the oldest child of an Aryan mother and Jewish father. Being of the product of a mixed marriage, he was allowed to stay at home and not be called up for a transport to one of the concentration camps until he turned 14, which happened in 1942. Two years later, his sister Chava Pressburger (who edited this work) joined him Thesesienstadt, right before Petr's transport to Auschwitz, where he was gassed.
In 2003, Israli astronaut Ilan Ramon took one of Petr's paintings, Moon Landscape, with him into space. On February 1, 2003 (Petr's 75th birthday) the shuttle Columbia exploded.
After hearing the story, a homeowner in Prague realized that the hand-bound diaries he had found upon moving into the house must be those of Petr Ginz. His sister recognized them right away.
This book is those two diaries, spanning the years of 1941 and 1942, ending just a few months before Petr's transport. But it is more than that. It contains mainly of his drawings, paintings and linocuts, as well as poetry and some of his writings from Thesesienstadt. Pressburger has a long introduction giving much background to their family's life before, during, and after the war. Jonathan Safran Foer's introduction on the power and meaning of lanugage and words is moving and powerful.
Petr's diary is not the introspective writings of a captive Anne Frank. He is a boy full of life, documenting his day to day activities as life becomes ever more restricted. Many entries are similair to this complete one from November 25, 1941:
Morning at home, afternoon at school.
There are lists of birthday presents, and an ever-growing catalog of friends, neighbors and relatives being called up for transport. He writes news from the war, such as the March 8th entry from 1942 noting that The Japanese have seriously threatened Java. Or, a week later, on March 11th
In the morning at school; they counted 750 casualties in Paris and 1,400 injured.--In the afternoon outside.
It is the work of a boy going on being a boy in the midst of confusion and carnage. Most moving is his artwork, which shows great talent and promise.
As for age range, I usually just go with whatever my library has something catalogued as. They have this in the adult section, and think it's a great book for adults, but I would also recomend it to someone as young as 9 or 10. I think I would give them this one first before Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl.
Poetry Friday roundup is at Book Mine Set.