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

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Description

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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Product details

  • Paperback | 224 pages
  • 128 x 194 x 20mm | 120g
  • Orion Publishing Co
  • Phoenix (an Imprint of The Orion Publishing Group Ltd )
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 4
  • 0753814056
  • 9780753814055
  • 14,844

Review quote

Vivid and anguished ... compulsive reading -- Richard Overy Sunday Telegraph 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 -- Gerald Jacobs 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 -- Lisa Appignanesi Observer This memoir of a Jewish pianist who survived the war in Warsaw is one of the most powerful accounts ever written Sunday Tribune A compelling, harrowing masterpiece Independent A book so fresh and vivid, so heartbreaking, and so simply and beautifully written, that it manages to tell us the story of horrendous events as if for the first time ... His account is hair-raising, beyond anything Hollywood could invent ... Everything that has been most horrific in life in 20th-century Europe is encompassed in this exquisite memoir Daily Telegraph What really stays with the reader is the chilling, almost naive immediacy with which the story is told ... The Pianist is an icy, nerveless but remarkably readable memoir that takes us as close as we are ever likely to travel to the day-to-day reality of living through terror Sunday Times

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About Wladyslaw Szpilman

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 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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