The Pianist

The Pianist : The Extraordinary Story of One Man's Survival in Warsaw, 1939-45

By (author) Wladyslaw Szpilman , Translated by Anthea Bell


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The powerful and bestselling memoir of a young Jewish pianist who survived the war in Warsaw against all odds. Made into a Bafta and Oscar-winning film. 'You can learn more about human nature from this brief account of the survival of one man throughout the war years in the devastated city of Warsaw than from several volumes of the average encyclopaedia' Independent on Sunday 'We are drawn in to share his surprise and then disbelief at the horrifying progress of events, all conveyed with an understated intimacy and dailiness that render them painfully close'riveting' Observer 'The images drawn are unusually sharp and clear'but its moral tone is even more striking: Szpilman refuses to make a hero or a demon out of anyone' Literary Review

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  • Paperback | 224 pages
  • 128 x 194 x 20mm | 120g
  • 01 Mar 2003
  • Orion Publishing Co
  • Phoenix (an Imprint of The Orion Publishing Group Ltd )
  • London
  • English
  • 4
  • 0753814056
  • 9780753814055
  • 13,141

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Author Information

Wladyslaw Szpilman was born in 1911. He studied the piano at the Warsaw Conservatory and at the Academy of Arts in Berlin. From 1945 to 1963 he was Director of Music at Polish Radio, and for many years he also pursued a career as a concert pianist and composer. He lived in Warsaw until his death in 2000.

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Review quote

OSCARS - The Pianist has won three OSCARS (count 'em!) for BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY, BEST DIRECTOR, BEST LEADING ACTOR... and you can't miss the coverage in the national and regional newspapers, radio and TV...! BAFTAS- You'll remember The Pianist won the BAFTA for BEST FILM beating Gangs of New York, Chicago, The Hours and Lord of the Rings. It also won the BAFTA for BEST DIRECTOR.It has also just won BEST FILM at the inaugural LONDON JEWISH CULTURE CENTREAWARDS FOR CONTRIBUTIONS TO JEWISH CULTURE. It is also number 15 on the US Bestseller lists. Just such a shame that the author never lived to see his story being so widely acclaimed. Many of you will remember the author, Wladlyslaw Szpilman, who came over to promote the book in hardback and who sadly died before the film was realised. With such a brilliant Director and the amazing true story of how Wladyslaw survived because of his love of music, the film is attracting a huge amount of attention and the reissued paperback is also receiving good reviews. As THE MAIL ON SUNDAY says:"This edition of the book has been released to coincide with a new Hollywood film, but I strongly recommend reading it first." "One of the most human of stories" JEWISH CHRONICLE "Szpilman pays testament to the strange magic of music, without which he would have dies alongside his family." SUNDAY HERALD "a remarkable book... no-holds-barred... fascinating." SUNDAY TELEGRAPH

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Review text

Books that are turned into films always excite debate, usually over whether the writer has had justice done to his words. Roman Polanski's film of the same name has been an overwhelming advantage for this little-known and tragic memoir, both because the movie has been acclaimed and also because anything that can have helped bring the book to the attention of a wider audience has to be a good thing. Stalin's often-quoted remark that one man's death is a tragedy while that of a million men is a statistic is particularly true when today's readers struggle to engage with the reality of the events of the Second World War. The numbing statistics and the sheer horror of the millions wiped out in the concentration camps is rendered more immediate when translated into individual stories. Szpilman was a classical pianist working for Polish Radio at the beginning of the war. His life was an ordinary middle-class Jewish one, in which the importance of culture and family values was paramount. Szpilman himself escaped Auschwitz, pulled back from the transport convoy at the last moment by an unseen hand. But he took little comfort in his narrow escape, as his father, mother, brother and two sisters were wrenched away from him to die there, their last family meal a shared bar of chocolate cut up with a penknife. In sparse, unemotional language, Szpilman explains how, as the ghetto was shut off from the rest of Warsaw under German occupation and gradually emptied, normal lives became increasingly desperate, people fighting over scraps of food and selling off their family treasures, all the while holding on to the hope that the Allies would defeat Germany before any more of their people died. After his family were taken, he managed to eke out a strange existence, more or less on his own in the abandoned ghetto, moving from burned-out building to burned-out building and foraging for scraps of food. Just as it seems his luck - if you can call it that - is about to run out, a platoon of German soldiers set up base in the latest abandoned building he has chosen. Yet, incredibly, the first German he encounters is a kindly former schoolteacher, Wilm Hosenfeld, who was sickened by the actions of his own side and not only helped Szpilman escape, but also brought him food and even an eiderdown. This edition of the book, which should be compulsory reading, contains excerpts from Hosenfeld's diaries, and a foreword by Szpilman's son. (Kirkus UK)

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